Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Kamchatka brown bears and Blakiston’s fish owls are the focus of WCS Russia’s research and conservation projects today. These landscape species require vast tracts of intact, functioning ecosystems to survive, and therefore efforts to save them promote conservation of the myriad other species that inhabit the wild ecosystems of Northeast Asia.
Approximately 350-400 adult Siberian or Amur tigers are left in the wild, with 95% of these individuals inhabiting the forests of the Russian Far East. Amur tigers require large, intact forest ecosystems and act as indicators of overall ecosystem health. The tiger’s cultural significance is reflected in its portrayal on the coat-of-arms of both Khabarovsky and Primorsky Krais, as well as on the insignia of their regional capitals. Indigenous peoples of the Russian Far East forbid killing the tiger, whom they called Amba, and considered that a meeting with the striped cat was a sign of bad luck.
Today Russian and international conservation efforts have succeeded in stabilizing the number of Amur tigers in the wild. However, there are still significant threats to this population, and the Amur tiger remains critically endangered.
Read more about Amur Tiger Ecology and Conservation Threats.
Amur (Far Eastern) Leopards
The leopard is rarely found in cold environments and exists mostly in the savannas of Africa and the jungles of Southeast Asia. However, in the extreme northern part of the leopard’s range, a rare subspecies of this cat lives in the temperate forests and harsh winters of the Russian Far East. Known as the Far Eastern or Amur leopard, this animal is the world’s most endangered big cat, with only 25-40 individuals left in the wild. Cold and deep snows have prevented the leopard’s successful colonization to the north, while in the south, poaching and intensive development have practically eliminated leopards from China and Korea. Today leopards are found only in a thin strip of land along the Russian-Chinese border.
Read more about Amur Leopard Ecology and Conservation Threats.
The largest brown bears in Eurasia, and among the largest on the planet, are found on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, a land of “fire and ice” that is home to erupting volcanoes, hundreds of glaciers and thousands of lakes and rivers where one quarter of the world’s Pacific salmon come to spawn. Kamchatka is also brown bear heaven, providing an abundance of berries, nuts, and most importantly, salmon. Brown bears require large, ecologically diverse habitat, and therefore their conservation could unify nature protection efforts on Kamchatka. However, there is very little reliable information about the ecology of Kamchatka brown bears, which are threatened by poaching, harvest pressure and increased human access.
Read more about Kamchatka Brown Bear Ecology and Conservation Threats.
Blakiston’s Fish Owls
The Blakiston's fish owl is endangered, and is perhaps the largest owl in the world. There are thought to be less than 1000 pairs of these birds remaining in the wild, with very few individuals held in captivity. Found only in northeast Asia, this secretive species has a fragmented distribution in the remote forests of northern Japan, the Russian Far East, and northeastern China. In Russia this aquatic prey specialist manages to persist year-round in a climate frozen for months on end. Critical issues for its conservation include management of riparian habitat outside protected areas and education of local populations about the species.
Read more about Blakiston’s Fish Owl Ecology and Conservation Threats.
WCS Russia has also carried out research and conservation projects on Asiatic black bears, brown bears in Primorye, Eurasian lynx, red deer, and wild boar. Visit our publications to learn more about these efforts.