China to Create First National Tiger Reserve

CHANGCHUN, China, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - A Chinese nature reserve that is inhabited by four to six Siberian tigers is about to be upgraded to a national park, according to the Chinese state information service.

Huangnihe River Nature Reserve, in the Mount Changbai area of northeast China's Jilin Province was established by the provincial government last May. The Huangnihe reserve will soon become a national park for the preservation of the area's endangered tigers.

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Tigers like this one are endangered everywhere in the world. (Photo courtesy WWF)
After a survey conducted two years ago, Chinese, Russian and American experts concluded that fewer than 20 Siberian tigers were living in the wild in northeast China. Mount Changbai is their most important habitat.

Mount Changbai, stretching into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is known as a genepool of the species and an area with the most intact ecological system.

All wild tigers are considered endangered. At the turn of the 20th century, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers living in the wild, from the tropical evergreen deciduous forests of southern Asia to the coniferous woodlands of Siberia. Hunted for their body parts which are used in traditional Asian medicines, today there are about 7,000 wild tigers remaining anywhere in the world.

A hunting ban imposed on Changbai mountain by the Jilin provincial government five years ago has allowed an increase in wild boars and roe deer, which are prime prey for tigers.

A panel of experts videotaped a Siberian tiger chasing a roe deer last month in the nature reserve. It was an adult male tiger, Li Tong, a wildlife expert on the panel told the Xinhua News Service.

But the increase in wild prey has not kept the Changbai tigers from killing local cattle. Over 40 oxen have fallen prey to the tigers this autumn. Fifteen oxen raised on tree farms inside the Huangnihe reserve, were eaten by the hungry tigers, and ox bones and skin have often been found since October, workers on the tree farms told Xinhua.

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Changbai mountain region (Photo courtesy Dept. Geological and Environmental Studies, State University of New York at Binghamton)
Mount Changbai is a famous scenic spot that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world each year. The ecosystem is characterized by mixed coniferous and broadleaved forest with Korean pine, Manchurian ash, subalpine evergreen, alpine tundra; hot springs, cultivated fields and residential areas.

Changbai Mountain Nature Reserve is included on the world list of biosphere reserves. Because of its unpolluted environment and the unique climatic conditions, many medicinal herbs grow in the area.

Tigers are classified by IUCN-the World Conservation Union as endangered. They are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species which came into force in 1975 to regulate the trade in endangered wildlife. From the beginning all tigers except the Amur, or Siberian tiger were listed on Appendix 1 of the convention, which bans international trade in tigers and their body parts. In 1986 this protection was extended to the Siberian tiger.