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Amur-Heilong

Overview

  • Continent
    Asia
  • Species
    Amur tiger, Amur leopard

The Amur-Heilong covers areas of northeastern China and the Russian Far East. The region contains one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world, vast steppe grasslands, and the unbroken taiga biome.

The area consists of the 380-million-acre watershed of the Amur River—the longest undammed river in the Eastern Hemisphere—which creates a natural border between China and Russia. This great river originates near the sacred mountain of Burkan Khaldun in northeastern Mongolia, the birthplace of Genghis Khan.

New Transboundary Corridor Established for Tigers

On October 18, 2012, Russia established the “Sredneussuriisky” Wildlife Refuge—covering nearly 180,000 acres—which will allow Amur tigers access between Russia’s Sikhote-Alin mountains and the Wandashan mountains in China.

Amur Tiger Yawning

Species

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The Amur-Heilong harbors an incredible variety of species. Some 2,800 plant and 500 animal species inhabit the Russian side of the river alone. The area is a key habitat for some critically endangered wildlife such as the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard, which sits perilously close to the brink of extinction.

The old-growth deciduous and coniferous forests are also home to musk deer and brown bears. And the wetland ecosystems of the Amur-Heilong offer important refuge for migratory waterfowl, such as Oriental white storks and red-crowned cranes. The Amur River is home to the world's largest salmon, the 150-pound Siberian taimen. Wild ginseng, treasured for its healing powers, grows across the Russian Far East portion of the region.

People & Communities

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Rapid population growth in northeastern China is putting pressure on indigenous ethnic groups who have lived for centuries in the Amur-Heilong Basin, such as the Owenk, Hezhe, and Kirgiz. Far fewer people live on the Russian side of the river, which is home to European and Russian immigrants and indigenous groups such as the Nanai and Udege, who depend on the rivers and forests for their livelihoods.

One of the region's largest conservation challenges is balancing economic development with achieving sustainable land use, keeping the needs of indigenous people in mind. Traditional lifestyles in the area are often based on fishing and are now severely threatened by the decline in fish stocks and water pollution.

Threats

Illegal Wildlife Trade

While poaching has declined in recent years thanks to enforcement efforts, enthusiasm for traditional Chinese medicine still feeds a booming wildlife trade in products such as bear gall bladder, tiger paw and ginseng.

Habitat Destruction

Dams, pollution, and habitat destruction all threaten the health of the Amur-Heilong Basin. In addition to local pressures, this fragile ecosystem is imperiled by the international demand for timber, energy and animal products. Recent climatic trends are reshaping migration routes and alternating weather patterns that impact the health of local wildlife.

What WWF Is Doing

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Restoring Habitats and Protecting Species

In Russia and China, WWF is creating a multinational protected area for leopards, establishing national parks, and expanding tiger habitats.

Promoting Sustainable Forestry

With the help of our Global Forest and Trade Network, WWF works to facilitate trade between companies committed to responsible forestry practices.

Ensuring the River’s Natural Flow

WWF works with governments at all levels to urge adoption of a proposal for hydropower energy development that strikes a sustainable balance between the needs of humans and the region’s ecological integrity.

Protecting the River’s Headwaters

In Mongolia, WWF works with partners to improve land reclamation and restoration practices. We also implement ecotourism programs that encourage conservation while providing local economies with revenue.

Projects

  • Camera Trap Photos of Amur Leopards

    A camera trap in a protected area in Russia has captured photos of eight Amur – one of the world’s most endangered wild cats. While a "camera trap" might sound menacing, it actually does not harm wildlife. The name is derived from the manner in which it "captures" wildlife on film.

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