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Bee reserve stings planned tiger reserve

Updated : 2013-07-31

By ( Xinhua )

HARBIN - Plans for a Siberian tiger reserve in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province have hit a snag, as the reserve could pose a threat to the booming local bee-keeping industry, local forestry authorities said.

With the number of Siberian tigers in Russia approaching saturation in recent years, wild tigers have tended to migrate to northeastern provinces in China, where the environmental conditions are favorable for the tigers, according to monitoring results from both countries.

China and Russia are cooperating on the construction of a cross-border eco-passage for Siberian tigers that would connect planned tiger reserves in the two countries and expand the wild Siberian tigers' habitats so that they can migrate freely, without border restrictions.

The Siberian tiger reserves are expected to be built in Russia's Far East Primorsky Territory and a forest in the eastern part of the Wanda Mountains in China's Heilongjiang Province, according to the plan.

However, in China, the plan is not going ahead smoothly.

The planned Siberian tiger reserve in Heilongjiang Province is scheduled to cover 202,000 hectares. Of the total, 94 percent of the tiger reserve, or 190,300 hectares, will overlap a black bee nature reserve in the region, according to sources with the province's Dongfanghong Forestry Bureau.

Covering about 1.22 million hectares, the black bee nature reserve, located in Raohe County, Shuangyashan City, was developed as a state-level nature reserve in 1997 in a bid to protect the area's black bees and nectar-secreting plants.

If the Siberian tiger reserve is built, the black bee nature reserve would have to turn over about 15.5 percent of its total area to the tiger reserve, as the two reserves can not coexist, the sources said.

Zhang Shusen, director of the wildlife protection department of the Heilongjiang Provincial Forest Industry Bureau, said the Siberian tiger reserve has to push to get some land from the black bee nature reserve, because it is unlikely that the planned cross-border eco-passage for Siberian tigers can be changed.

However, the black bee nature reserve authorities have refused to give up any land for the Siberian tiger reserve.

Li Changchun, deputy director of the management bureau of the black bee nature reserve, said he is unwilling to reduce the size of the black bee nature reserve, even though he supports the construction of the Siberian tiger reserve.

The black bee should be cultivated through manual efforts, whereas the Siberian reserve demands an environment without people, said Li, adding that this is the reason that the two reserves can not coexist.

The black bee-keeping industry has persisted for several decades in the region and has brought significant profits to local residents, many of whom make their living on the species.

Meanwhile, Russia finished the construction of the state-level Siberian tiger reserve within its territory in 2012 and has urged China to build the reserve in the eastern Wanda Mountains so as to boost the construction of the cross-border passage for the Siberian tigers.

Ma Jianzhang, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) who does research on wild animals, said the environment of the region where the planned Siberian tiger reserve will be located offers the most favorable habitat for wild Siberian tigers in China.

Research shows that about five to seven wild Siberian tigers living in the area have close relationships with the 350 Siberian tigers in Russia, Ma said.

Once the cross-border eco-passage for the wild Siberian tigers is built, many problems concerning the Siberian tiger could be solved, such as the tigers' food shortage in Russia, according to Ma.

Meanwhile, mating between Siberian tigers from both countries will boost the endangered species' population and improve their genes, he added.

Wei Diansheng, director of the Heilongjiang Provincial Forest Industry Bureau, also called for the Siberian tiger reserve to be built immediately

But wildlife protection experts have yet to figure out a way for the black bee and the Siberian tiger reserves to harmoniously coexist.

Siberian tigers, otherwise known as Amur or Manchurian tigers, mainly live in eastern Russia, northeast China and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.

Only about 500 currently live in the wild, with about 12 in Heilongjiang Province and eight to ten in neighboring Jilin Province.

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