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25 September 2017
Home Planting cedars to save leopards

Planting cedars to save leopards

2011 has been declared the International Year of Forests.

The Maritime Region branch of the World Wildlife Foundation, located in the Russian Far East, will make its contribution through its plans to plant cedars in local areas that are the habitat of Far Eastern leopards – the rarest species of the cat family. From late May till early June, volunteers from all over the Maritime Region – businesspeople, journalists, students and schoolchildren – will spend their weekends planting trees far outside their cities, in the taiga.

As a result, 1 mln young trees will be planted over an area covering 500 hectares. This may seem a great figure – but in the context of the immense Russian taiga, it is a drop in the ocean. Yet in some 20 or 30 years, the cedars will mature and start producing cones, which will surely attract leopards – a cedar forest is the most attractive home for Far Eastern leopards.

The cedar is one of the symbols of the eastern taiga, like the leopard, the tiger and the ginseng. Cedars not only have very long lives and fare well in the harsh winters, but the pine nuts they produce are rich with medicinal properties. In a taiga environment, pine nuts are the main source of nutrients for herbivorous animals. Meanwhile, old cedars have many hollows that make good homes for forest dwellers. In turn, herbivorous creatures attract the hunters of the animal kingdom, like tigers and leopards.

The chief inspector of a conservation area in the Maritime Region Leonid Belov said: “If you go to a cedar forest during pine nut harvesting, you’ll surely see all kinds of carnivores, including leopards, tigers and bears.”

However, there are very few places to see this today. Because of forest fires and unregulated logging, the taiga is turning into wasteland, which is seeing the reduction in the number of leopards. According to research recently done by Russian and American scientists, there are only about 40 Far Eastern leopards in the Maritime Region now, which is a critical mark for the survival of the species. This is why ecologists have decided to plant cedars.

There are many species of cedar, but the Korean cedar was chosen for its ability to help prevent forest fires. The leader of the project Denis Smirnov explained: “Snow melts slower in cedar forests than in forests with leaf-bearing trees. The soil in those forests is usually damp and less flammable, thus fires are less frequent there.”

It is usually rainy in the Maritime Region in May, making it an ideal time to plant cedars. Young cedars take to the damp soil very well, sprouting roots quickly.

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