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Guardian of leopards

The National Park "Land of the Leopard", which is home to the majority of the Red Data Book of Far Eastern leopards, 5 April turned three years old

Guardian of leopards

The head of the protected area Tatyana Baranovskaya told EastRussia about the tricks of local poachers, about a unique flash mob that will connect Vladivostok and Moscow, as well as about the "weddings" of the rarest large cats on the planet.

- Tatyana Aleksandrovna, you became the director of the national park a little over four months ago. What shortcomings in the work of Land of the Leopard have you already noticed during this time and what, on the contrary, has pleased you?

- The first thing any new leader should pay attention to is strengths, they help to win. The work of the security department is remarkably well organized in the national park. In addition, the territory is very intelligently located - when creating the Land of the Leopard, important points were taken into account that determined the conditions for the survival of a wild cat, while creating an environment for the harmonious coexistence of populations of various animal species and conditions for the preservation of the main natural complexes that are important for maintaining biodiversity. In addition, we have a wonderful team.

As for the shortcomings - they can be in the work of any institution. "Land of the Leopard" is young, on April 5 it celebrated only its third anniversary. That is, the national park is, in fact, a three-year-old child. But at the same time, there are already basic skills of interaction between structures and departments, they hear each other, and this is a strong point. The weak side is that there is still no proven experience of such interaction - we can do something, but this skill has not yet been debugged at the level of a conditioned reflex. Before doing something, we waste time thinking, while some things should be done automatically. But, on the other hand, it is good news that the process of justifying a particular field of activity - security, forestry activities, ecological tourism - is not superficial, but serious, with reflection and analysis of what we are doing.

- What about poaching? Are there cases of murder of Red Book animals and what measures are being taken in the fight against poaching to date? Can the staff of inspectors cope with the threat?

- The situation with poaching is not the best. On the one hand, the inspectors are constantly fighting against illegal incursions, and if we compare what was in this area just a couple of years ago, and what is now, then this is heaven and earth: today poaching is not as widespread as it was quite recently ... On the other hand, in response to our measures, poachers will always find countermeasures, therefore, unfortunately, poaching cannot be completely eradicated.

Today it takes on sophisticated and fanciful forms. By analogy with a virus, you suppress it with an antibiotic, and it mutates, and you need to look for new means against it. For example, if earlier poachers entered the forest and fired, now they shine the headlights of cars from the road, blinding animals and shooting in the eyes. In this case, it is very difficult for these people to present something, since being on the track with a weapon is not considered a criminal offense. That is, the literacy rate of poachers is increasing.

Our inspectors are equipped with special communications, but poachers also have the opportunity to have special communications and "listen" to our employees. If earlier poaching was hunting based on the principle of "who will win", now it is a struggle between technologies.

There have been no recent cases of the killing of animals in the Red Data Book, at least during the period of my work in this post. But on holidays and weekends, facts of illegal entry into the territory of the national park are regularly recorded. If a person simply entered the Land of the Leopard without a pass, then this is an administrative offense, but if he is here with a weapon, then this is already a criminal offense. By law, being with a weapon on the territory of the national park is prohibited.

The number of inspectors that is now fully capable of coping with the threat of poaching. We control the situation, but this does not mean that 100% of all violations are being suppressed. Of course, I would very much like to increase the number of employees, as the more they are, the wider the coverage area. But while we do not have additional funds for this, and we take not by number, but by skill.

-There is now a fire-dangerous period, and last year an impressive territory of the national park suffered from the fires. Are there any special measures being taken to prevent a repeat of last year's situation?

- This year we were lucky with the weather - there was snow, high humidity and north wind. But the spring hunting season has opened, and crowds of drunken hunters have begun to make fires, so the inspectors are forced to defend the territory of the national park from fire from adjacent territories. This year, the fire has come to us only once, a little more than 2 acres of grass burned out. In addition, practice shooting was carried out at the Bamburovsky training ground, and the military twice missed the fire. Unfortunately, they are poorly equipped with fire-fighting equipment, and our inspectors had to put out the fire on our territory. As a result of two fires, about 25 hectares of land in the national park burned down.

With regard to fire fighting measures, this year regional exercises have already passed, and from 6 to 13 in April, our exercises are already held in working mode. A group of specialists in the field of fire fighting who will conduct training will come: on the real situation will work out the interaction of groups, special skills and additional security features. Plus we are additionally equipped with fire extinguishing equipment. Mineralized stripes are also being cleared. We hope that the spring-2015 of the year will be very different from the spring-2014.

-Not so long ago, the Leopard Keeper competition was held, and people involved in the problem of preserving a rare cat were able to name the animals. Are there any other similar events planned that can draw public attention to the problem of preserving the leopard population?

- The main event is the Leopard Trail flash mob, which is scheduled for June 6. For the first time, this will take place simultaneously in Vladivostok and Moscow. Everyone will be able to line up in the shape of a leopard's paws in two cities and greet each other via a video bridge. The flash mob will be timed to coincide with the Day of the Ecologist, which is celebrated on June 5.

In addition, activities will be conducted in the regions of the province to expand the knowledge of the local inhabitants about the leopard and how to conduct agriculture and coexist peacefully without interfering with it.

Also, as soon as new leopards appear, which we identify and on which we have passports, we will involve the public in choosing names for them. How it will be done next time - while it is being decided, it will be a surprise. But we can already say that such an opportunity will be given to people who contribute to the conservation of the leopard population.

- The Leopard Trail is now working in the National Park. Do you plan to develop any other tourist routes?

- We are doing this. There will be a route in the Blue Cliff area, as well as in places where the caves are. And one more eco-trail will be in the valley of the Gryaznaya river. In these matters, we want to involve the local population. One of the ideas is to organize an equestrian route with the participation of local residents. Now an analysis is underway of what places will be of interest to tourists, while it is important that tourist flows do not create disturbance factors for leopards. Perhaps, over time, a network of cycling routes will emerge.

In order to create such trails, an infrastructure should be organized that would preserve the territory intact, as human interference in the natural environment is generally negative.

- According to the latest sounded data, the number of leopards is growing. What are the forecasts for the next 10-15 years? Maybe one of the local inhabitants now expects offspring?

- It is very difficult to predict when it comes to cats, but the population is growing. Now it is more than 50 predators. What will happen in a couple of years? If we maintain the population of ungulates, which are a source of food for leopards, at the same level, then we can predict the growth of the population of cats. The medium capacity is still not filled, and there are serious chances for growth - the population can double or even triple in this territory. In fact, it all depends on the degree of protection and the number of ungulates.

In terms of reproduction, a cat is an unpredictable animal. Genetic analysis has not yet been carried out, we do not know what and how within the population. In particular, there is a big question about closely related crossbreeding - recently the "wedding" of Beri and Meamur, who, perhaps, are sister and brother to each other, got into the lenses of camera traps. Let's hope that genetic factors don't "shoot" in a bad way.

By all laws, the leopard population should have disappeared long ago. In 2002, I heard about 30 leopards, and experts predicted the death of the population in 5-7 years. But nevertheless, the leopards survived. If we predict the number of cats in the future for several years, then 100-120 individuals is quite an achievable result given the current state of the territory and food supply.

As for the natural offspring, pregnant females usually hide and cannot be noticed with the help of camera traps. But we have those who have brought offspring, and now they are teaching young people how to behave correctly. There is a mother cat who is raising two children, and there is another one who has three kittens. Compared to previous years, the number of leopards in the National Park is increasing, teaching children how to behave in nature. Plus, several females have disappeared from the screens of camera traps recently, which means that now they are hiding somewhere - leopardesses do not like it when someone spies on them at the time of raising their offspring. In addition, we recently received footage of two "weddings" of predators, so we may expect offspring soon.

- The head of the Russian presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov, is concerned about the fate of leopards and the national park. How does having such a high-ranking curator affect the work of Land of the Leopard?

- Sergei Borisovich is a man who sincerely loves Land of the Leopard and our animals. In addition, he is the chairman of the autonomous non-profit organization Far Eastern Leopards, which provides us with serious assistance. So, in his person, the administration of the President of the Russian Federation closely monitors what and how is happening in the "Land of the Leopard" in order to lend us a helping hand at the right time. In addition, the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation pays special attention to the conservation of leopards, Amur tigers, as well as other Red Data Book species that live on our territory.

-If you have "favorites" among leopards - predators, which for you somehow stand out from others?

- My favorite is the leopardess Nerussa. The name was given to her by the members of the Association of Directors of Reserves and National Parks of the Russian Federation. Her name is the name of one of the rivers of central Russia. Nerussa is a calm, balanced, but at the same time very bright cat who skillfully and correctly brings up children. That's right - because her kittens behave very carefully, judging by what we see with the camera traps. Her girl stayed on the same territory with her, and the boys wander wherever we don't see them. Nerussa twice brought two kittens. Now she is not visible, which means she may be pregnant again.

I am really interested in the fate of cats, I enjoy watching recordings from camera traps, getting acquainted with leopards, I know almost everyone by name. I like the name Hasan, it speaks. Nutcracker is a very good name, Typhoon - it all reflects what is happening here. Dersu, Nimble, Pogranichny are excellent names. In general, I am for leopards to be called simple names without pretentiousness, although Meamur is perfectly suited to the leopard wearing it.

- How do you see the national park in 10 years? What are you planning to change and what do you want to achieve ideally as a director?

- I want to see Land of the Leopard as the best national park in the system of protected natural areas in Russia. An exemplary national park. And this means an effective protection system, balanced and effective forestry measures that maintain the state of natural complexes and a normal forage base, a network of biotechnical measures that make it easy to solve the issue of feeding ungulates in snowy winters, reduced to a minimum, or maybe even completely exterminated poaching, an ecological system. education, when every local resident is proud to live near the "Land of the Leopard".

Also, there should be an active network of ecological paths and routes with a convenient infrastructure for people, not interfering with natural complexes. A solid collective and a large manor in Barabash, where there will be a multimedia hall and a visit-center. All the structures of the national park will also be located there. In Vladivostok there will be only an information center and representation. I would very much like to have by that time even banned the spring hunt even in the south of Primorye, but for now this dream is probably from the realm of fantasy.

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