Tree protection to help Russian tiger

The Russian government is boosting protection of its rare wild tigers by tightening controls on logging of a tree vital to their habitat.

Korean Pine nuts are a vital food source for the prey of the tiny population of Amur Tigers found in the forests of Russia's far east.

But it is also prized by loggers, much of it illegal felling.Stopping logging at source is difficult due to the remoteness of the forests.

Now Russian authorities have listed the tree in a global agreement on endangered species, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

This will make it much harder for illegal loggers, as licences will be required to export the timber.

Alexey Vaisman, senior programme officer with conservation charity TRAFFIC Europe-Russia, said "We warmly welcome the measures to regulate the trade in Korean Pine timber.

"This is good news for the local people whose livelihoods depend on the trade in Korean Pine nuts and for Amur Tigers which live where these trees grow.

"The new measures will need to be backed up with appropriate enforcement action."

Analysis of export data shows the commercial trade in Korean pine timber rising over the last decade despite the global economic downturn which has hit trade in most timber species.

The new measures will benefit the legal pine nut trade in the region, which conservationists have been promoting as a means to legal and sustainable income.

Evgeny Lepeshkin, forestry projects co-ordinator with the Amur branch of WWF Russia, said: "We hope the listing in CITES will finally help break the system of illegal logging of Korean Pines and help the survival of trade in alternative, sustainable forestry products from the region."

David Gibbs



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