WCS Russia

Countering Poaching of Amur Tigers


A few of the transport means used by patrols in the Russian Far East. Analysis of patrol monitoring data showed that foot patrols are most effective in detecting and apprehending poachers.

Improving protection in 4 protected areas

This project has already substantially improved the protection of Amur tigers, Amur leopards and prey species in four key protected areas in the Russian Far East.

The Russian Far East is home to the world’s largest remaining population of wild Amur tigers, estimated at 430 to 500 individuals (2005). Recent data from the Amur Tiger Monitoring Program, a 15-year collaboration between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Russian partners, provides strong evidence that both tiger and prey numbers are in decline. An increase in poaching, compounded by habitat loss, are the key drivers of this downward trend.

Findings of the Amur Tiger Monitoring Program highlight the importance of protected areas as core breeding habitat or ‘source sites’. Compared to adjacent forest lands, both adult and cub tiger densities in protected areas are significantly higher. However, despite their protected status, protected areas have experienced greater losses of tigers between 2005 and 2010 than unprotected areas due to poor law enforcement. Improving law enforcement in protected areas is therefore a priority for the conservation of tigers and other wildlife in the Russian Far East.

WCS’s comprehensive approach for improving anti-poaching in protected areas has already proven successful in other tiger range countries. The approach includes:

  • Introduction of a Law Enforcement Monitoring (LEM) system using MIST and SMART software, which enables managers of protected areas to assess both effort and results of anti-poaching patrols.
  • Support for effective anti-poaching patrols, such as training and the provision of equipment, vehicle fuel, and spare parts.
  • A bonus system that rewards anti-poaching teams who perform well.
  • Biological monitoring to demonstrate increases/decreases of tigers and their prey in relation to improved anti-poaching effort.

What is Law Enforcement Monitoring (LEM)?

LEM is a method for monitoring of anti-poaching patrol efforts and results. It is based on GIS technology (Geographic Information System), which means that all patrol monitoring data are linked spatially and can be shown on maps. LEM makes it possible to assess and compare patrol efforts and results over time and across teams and sites. Anti-poaching teams use GPS (Global Positioning System) units to record their routes and they document poaching and other relevant incidents during their patrols on specially designed data forms. In Russia data on patrol movements, violations, and tigers and leopards are collected by patrol teams and then stored in a computer database. By generating regular patrol reports, LEM facilitates evaluation of patrol performance and improved patrol management. Regular meetings between WCS staff, inspectors and management staff allows assessment of patrol accomplishments and determination of priority areas and targets for future efforts of anti-poaching teams. This process produces substantial improvement of patrol quality. 


The implementation of LEM along with additional support for anti-poaching patrols, has achieved the following results across a number of tiger conservation sites in Asia:

  • Better planning of anti-poaching efforts
  • A means of adaptively responding to newly emerging or changing threats
  • A standard means of assessing success across sites and over time
  • Improved morale of rangers
  • Higher densities of tigers and their prey
Russia Anti-Poaching Initiative

LEM was launched in Lazovskii and Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserves on the 1st of December 2010 and in Zov Tigra National Park and Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve on the 1st August 2011.  These reserves represent core breeding habitat for Amur Tigers in the Russian Far East.
WCS Russia and partner organizations Phoenix Fund and Zoological Society of London are providing a support package to these four protected areas that includes:
  • Equipment for patrol data collection, processing and storage (including GPS units for recording patrol routes, cameras for documenting observations during patrols and a computer with MIST software installed for storing and analyzing patrol data). 
  • Training of protected area staff in data collection and data entry.
  • Technical and management support in the production of bi-monthly patrol reports for each of the protected areas. The reports contain a review of the performance of each patrol team with recommendations and targets for improvement over the next patrol cycle. 
  • Patrol operational support (fuel, vehicle maintenance, ranger clothing).
  • Funds for a performance-based incentive scheme which rewards rangers for quality patrol work and results.  
At the same time, biological monitoring protocols are being assessed and improved at each of the four sites, in order to measure the impact of improved patrol effort on tiger, leopard and prey populations. 

Open a MAP of the four protected areas where this project is implemented. 


Our patrol reports provided a first opportunity for management and inspectors of protected areas to view maps showing the patrol routes of various teams. In addition, they provide simple figures and tables showing the number of patrol days, patrol distances, time spent on various patrols and results of each of the teams. It is not surprising that the first patrol reports were met with much interest during the first feedback meetings at the four protected areas. At Land of the Leopard National Park in particular, the reports led to very lively discussions between inspectors and the management about patrol quality and options for improvement.

In the first full program year, 2011, we saw a marked growth in anti-poaching results at the two sites where we first introduced LEM in comparison to the three years previous to the start of our program (see figure on the right). In both reserves, the numbers of firearms confiscated more than doubled, the numbers of poachers caught increased by 1.8 to 2.5 times, and the total amount of fines increased by 1.3 to 7.2 times. At least part of these results are due to an increase in patrol quality in 2011 compared to previous years.

In 2012, patrol quality continued to improve at both protected areas, however the patrol results (protocols for poaching and confiscated fire arms) dropped sharply (see figure below). This suggests that the intensity of poaching has been reduced, probably because firearms have been confiscated or because poachers decided to go elsewhere where the risk of being caught is less.  

Next Steps

Over the next 12 months we want to consolidate the use of Law Enforcement Monitoring at the current four sites and achieve further improvements in the patrol quality at these sites. In addition we plan to expand our work to one more protected area in Amur tiger habitat, bringing the total number of sites with Law Enforcement Monitoring in Russia to five.
Related documents 
  • brochure (download)
  • presentation  (download)
  • the three forms that Russian inspectors use for the collection of patrol data (download)
  • law enforcement result table (download)
  • table of the 2011 and 2012 law enforcement efforts of all four protected areas (download)
  • map of the project areas (download)    


Reducing tiger and prey poaching through improved law enforcement is one of the key strategies for tiger conservation identified at the St. Petersburg International Tiger Summit 2010.