The Wildlife Conservation Society in China has been conducting systematic camera trap monitoring of Amur leopards and Amur tigers in Hunchun, northeast China, since 2013. They religiously check their network of cameras every 3 months to make sure that the hardware is working properly and to clear any vegetation away from in front of the lens.
The team’s devotion to their camera network spanning 610 km2 has been rewarded with evidence of tiger recovery in northeast China. In 2013, the cameras detected only a single individual in Hunchun Nature Reserve, and this year that number blossomed to fifteen. And it’s not just that we are seeing more tigers coming across the border from Russia, they are making their homes in China and raising cubs.
One exciting example of this is the legacy of Tiger #3.
In 2018 the team recorded the presence of Tiger #3 in Hunchun for the first time, travelling with four young cubs. This is particularly exciting as tiger mothers allocate territory to their daughters so we were hopeful her 4 cubs would establish themselves in the reserve and continue the legacy of Tiger #3. However, there is no guarantee of this as cubs frequently die within their first year in the wild.
However, in 2020 all our hopes were realised when one of the four young tigers from 2018 (Tiger #42) was caught on camera again and this time with two of her own cubs. But Tiger #3 hard work wasn’t over, despite being a grandmother she revealed herself once again on the cameras in 2021, this time with two more cubs.
The present-day represents a pivotal moment for big cat conservation in northeast China as tigers and leopards continue to disperse from source populations in Russia. With support from the WildCats Conservation Alliance, the WCS is able to document and support the establishment of fledgling populations of Amur tigers in China.