The sole use of militarisation in conservation is problematic as it can ignore the complex underlying historical, social, economic, and political drivers of contention between humans and the natural world.
Law enforcement activities do work as an emergency response to save the lives of critically endangered animals, their prey, and their habitat. However, extensive policing of protected areas is not a panacea for all biodiversity loss. Wicked problems require collaborative interventions. For this reason, the Phoenix Fund is dedicated to stabilising Amur tiger and leopard populations through eco-education activities alongside anti-poaching tactics.
During the first half of 2021, Phoenix Fund has been continuing their dedicated efforts across five protected areas in the Russian Far East with the support of WildCats. They use a range of approaches to engage with local people and create long-term behaviour change while also targeting wildlife crime to ensure we do not lose another critically endangered life.
Phoenix Fund and Anti-poaching in 2021
Phoenix Fund anti-poaching teams have identified an increase in violations within the assigned territories in the first half of 2021.
This increase can be attributed to the territorial expansion of Land of the Leopard National Park (LLNP) as it administratively merged with two other protected areas (Ussuriisky Nature Reserve & Far Eastern Marine Reserve). Local people are not used to seeing strict control over the additional territories which are still poorly marked as parts of the national park. In addition, although the total area under the management of LLNP has significantly increased, the federal funding and number of law enforcement rangers has declined.
With patrols working at capacity, community outreach is increasingly important but is currently at the mercy of a third wave of coronavirus.
Phoenix Fund and Education in 2021
In July 2021, Russia entered a devastating third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, registering record numbers of daily virus deaths. Preparatory work was underway for Tiger Day Festival which is traditionally celebrated in Russia during September with a carnival procession. Heartbreakingly, the carnival has been cancelled again despite all the hard work already put into the celebration.
However, the incredible team at Phoenix Fund are busy preparing an online format to ensure the festivities are not lost to the pandemic. They have already shown their proficiency with organising online engagement activities by running an international chalk art contest and a virtual charity race for International Tiger Day in July 2021.
The Phoenix Fund has shown their adaptability and resilience to continued pressures from the global pandemic, persisting with their ecological education programme in the safest possible way. They continue to facilitate eco-lessons, exhibitions, art contests and other events/actions related to tiger and leopard conservation. They assist experienced educators in visiting remote villages to give lectures, show slide-presentations and video on animals and organise various ecological contests, games, quizzes, and exhibitions. Despite ongoing restrictions, the Phoenix Fund have given 588 lessons and nature-oriented events for 5,999 children. Over double the number of 2020!
Phoenix Fund and capacity building in 2021
Annually during the spring school holidays, the Phoenix Fund conducts seminars for educators, teachers and outreach specialists that serve as a platform for all participants to exchange experience, gain knowledge and meet new people involved in ecological outreach. During March, thanks to financial support from the WildCats, Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation, Kolmarden Foundation, and David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, the Phoenix Fund organised an educational eco-workshop for 50 people.
”“At each eco-seminar held by Phoenix, we absorb new information like a sponge, and then we go home and apply it in our work with children. Here you do not feel like a black sheep, but on the contrary, you understand that there are so many of us, friends of nature, who work with children and adults and instil in them a love for their homeland"Valeria NazarovaTeacher of additional education at the House of Children's Creativity, head of Namba eco-centre in Novopokrovka
You can read the full interim report here.
How you can help
Despite the overwhelming consequences of the pandemic, the Phoenix Fund are still driving positive change in environmentally relevant behaviour in the Russian Far East.