In January 2009, there was a helicopter crash in the Siberian region of Altai Krai. This crash killed seven people, including a few high-ranking civil servants. While cleaning up the wreckage, the corpses of Altai wild sheep and mountain sheep were found; all of them poached illegally. There were four survivors of the crash who were high-ranking government officials and they were cleared of all charges.
Once the details of the crash was made known to the public, the media had a field day and several reports of poaching by top officials popped up. The head of the Federal Taxation Service department was detained on suspicion of poaching. A governor from Northwestern Russia was accused of shooting endangered bighorn rams. Other officials were also accused of poaching in Yakutia, Russia’s Far East.
Poaching used to be extremely uncommon in Russia,but unfortunately now its become a big problem in the country. The main reason that the illegal hunting started was due to the social and political changes since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. State controlled farms stopped due to the fall of the system. The unemployment, poverty, inflation and shortage of food took it’s impact out on the wildlife, and there was no one there to stop it from happening. Between 1992 and 1996, law enforcement focused on drug and trafficking and money laundering. Environmental crimes were not treated as big security issues. The government experienced some major budget cuts, which hit environmental and wildlife protection agencies hard. There were many layoffs and pay reductions for rangers who could fight against poachers.
There are about 50,000 cases registered annually in Russia. The animals being poached are mainly bear, musk deer, leopards and tigers.
In August, a graveyard of brown bears was discovered in Siberia. The Siberian Times covered this story and said
“The fear is that poaching was undertaken as an order from the Chinese black market where bear product where bear products have a high value as delicacies and for medicinal purposes.”
In a separate case, customs officers on the Russian-Chinese border detained someone who had 115 bear claws in their possession. Customs was quoted as saying that they catch this kind of cargo once every 3 months. It is estimated that they black market price for a claw is roughly around $1,000. Russia has the largest brown bear population in the world.
In the early 1990’s, there was a decrease of the Siberian tiger due to poaching.There was around 371 tigers in the Russian Far East in 1996. There used to be 600 at the end of the 1980’s. But the collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in easing border controls and gun laws, and tigers became a profitable cash crop when they were in high demand with none other than the Chinese.
Today there are only about 350 adult Siberian or Amur tigers left in the wild. There are institutes and groups who have put together a Siberian Tiger Project, which tries to track and save the tigers. Here is some information about it: Siberian Tiger Project details
The Amur Leopard is close to extinction. There are only about 30-40 left.
A number of Russian and international organizations are engaged in plans to increase the population. Here is some information: Amur Leopard details
There is also a petition that people can sign to help the leopards and tigers: PETITION
The Russians mean business when it comes to poaching. In July, a Russian border patrol opened fire on a Chinese vessel which was poaching in the water. The Chinese crew was unable to produce documentation showing they had permission to fish in the waters, or for the 22.5 tons of squid discovered on board.
This month Russia and the U.S agreed to strengthen cooperation in upholding security and fighting illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea. In the first few months of 2012, the Russian and U.S coastal guards seized 10 ships which had violated the border regime of either country.
By: Abigail Tackett