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Kerley L.L.,Zoological Society of London | Kerley L.L.,FSBI United Lazovskii State Nature Zapovednik named after Kaplanov | Mukhacheva A.S.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik | Matyukhina D.S.,FSBI Land of Leopard | And 3 more authors.
Integrative Zoology | Year: 2015

Prey availability is one of the principal drivers of tiger distribution and abundance. Therefore, formulating effective conservation strategies requires a clear understanding of tiger diet. We used scat analysis in combination with data on the abundance of several prey species to estimate Amur tiger diet and preference at 3 sites in the Russian Far East. We also examined the effect of pseudoreplication on estimates of tiger diet. We collected 770 scats across the 3 sites. Similar to previous studies, we found that tigers primarily preyed on medium to large ungulates, with wild boar, roe, sika and red deer collectively comprising 86.7% of total biomass consumed on average. According to Jacobs' index, tigers preferred wild boar, and avoided sika deer. Variation in preference indices derived from these scat analyses compared to indices derived from kill data appear to be due to adjustments in biomass intake when sex-age of a killed individual is known: a component missing from scat data. Pseudoreplication (multiple samples collected from a single kill site) also skewed results derived from scat analyses. Scat analysis still appears useful in providing insight into the diets of carnivores when the full spectrum of prey species needs to be identified, or when sample sizes from kill data are not sufficient. When sample sizes of kill data are large (as is now possible with GPS-collared animals), kill data adjusted by sex-age categories probably provides the most accurate estimates of prey biomass composition. Our results provide further confirmation of the centrality of medium ungulates, in particular wild boar, to Amur tiger diet, and suggest that the protection of this group of species is critical to Amur tiger conservation. © 2015 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. Source

Miquelle D.G.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Smirnov E.N.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik | Zaumyslova O.Y.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik | Soutyrina S.V.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik | Johnson D.H.,U.S. Geological Survey
Integrative Zoology | Year: 2015

In 2010, the world's tiger (Panthera tigris) range countries agreed to the goal of doubling tiger numbers over 12 years, but whether such an increase is biologically feasible has not been assessed. Long-term monitoring of tigers in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik (SABZ), Russia provided an opportunity to determine growth rates of a recovering population. A 41-year growth phase was followed by a rapid decline in tiger numbers. Annual growth rates during the growth phase averaged 4.6%, beginning near 10% in the earliest years but quickly dropping below 5%. Sex ratio (females per male) mirrored growth rates, declining as population size increased. The rapid decline from 2009 to 2012 appeared to be tied to multiple factors, including poaching, severe winters and disease. Reproductive indicators of this population are similar to those of Bengal tiger populations, suggesting that growth rates may be similar. These results suggest that, first, tiger populations likely in general grow slowly: 3-5% yearly increases are realistic and larger growth rates are likely only when populations are highly depressed, mortality rates are low and prey populations are high relative to numbers of adult females. Second, while more research is needed, it should not be assumed that tiger populations with high prey densities will necessarily grow more quickly than populations with low prey densities. Third, while growth is slow, decline can be rapid. Fourth, because declines can happen so quickly, there is a constant need to monitor populations and be ready to respond with appropriate and timely conservation interventions if tiger populations are to remain secure. Finally, an average annual growth rate across all tiger populations of 6%, required to reach the Global Tiger Initiative's goal of doubling tiger numbers in 12 years, is a noble but unlikely scenario. © 2015 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. Source

Mukhacheva A.S.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik | Derugina V.V.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Soutyrina S.V.,Sikhote Alin Biosphere Zapovednik
Integrative Zoology | Year: 2015

Anthropogenic impacts are the primary threats to Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) and their habitat. Villagers living in proximity to tigers tend to view them negatively and, often, as a source of revenue on black markets. We aim to reduce human-tiger conflict by working with young students of Ternei County in the heart of tiger habitat in Primorskii Krai (Province). To inform and influence Ternei County's future decision-makers, we developed "Safe Conduct", a year-long education program held in 6 villages, culminating in a multi-school conference. We tested the efficacy of Safe Conduct as a potential model for tiger conservation educational programs. We measured levels of student knowledge about tiger ecology, their attitude towards tigers, and their willingness to engage in tiger conservation activites prior to, immediately after and 6 months following the completion of our program. Results supported the fundamental premise of Safe Conduct that knowledge and attitude towards tigers are correlated. Knowledge of tiger ecology and attitude towards tigers increased by the project's completion; both remained high after 6 months. However, commitment to participation in conservation efforts rose temporarily post-program and then dropped. Results varied by village. We recommend that the reasons for the high performance measures of students in 2 villages be investigated, and that lessons learned be applied to villages that underperformed. Safe Conduct represents a potential model for environmental education programs in Ternei County and elsewhere to educate future generations, to eventually develop a strong commitment to Amur tiger conservation at the community level. © 2015 International Society of Zoological Sciences, Institute of Zoology/Chinese Academy of Sciences and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. Source

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