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Tiger, leopard populations recovering in NE China

HARBIN, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The latest field survey of wild Siberian tigers and leopards in northeast China has shown the populations recovering.

The survey was carried out over a year by the Cat Research Center with the State Forestry Bureau, in cooperation up with World Wildlife Fund, and forestry authorities in Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, said Jiang Guangshun, deputy head of the center, on Sunday.

During the survey, researchers have repaired more than 200 automatic monitoring cameras in forest reserves in the two adjoining provinces, where the big cats are found.

"Most of the big cats captured on the video images appeared healthy," he said.

Jiang said that from the survey, researchers estimate that there were over 30 tigers and leopards in the mountain regions.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur or Manchurian tigers, mainly live in east Russia, northeast China and northern parts of the Korean Peninsula. Less than 500 Siberian tigers are believed to survive in the wild, with an estimated 18 to 22 in Heilongjiang and Jilin. The world population of Amur leopard is less than 60, and most of them live in Russia. The species have been on the verge of extinction in northeast China as a result of poaching and deforestation.

In recent years, public awareness of wildlife protection has gradually increased. Jilin recently proposed expanding the Hunchun National Siberian Tiger Nature Reserve to further rehabilitate local ecology. Coverage of the major tiger habitats would be increased by 524 hectares if the proposed plan is adopted by the State Council. Once passed, the plan would mean half of the 6,000 residents of the area would be relocated.

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