(RUSSIA – May 4, 2016) - “The Wildlife Conservation Society congratulates the Russian conservation community, especially Land of the Leopard National Park, on the grand opening of the Narvinskii Pass tunnel on March 26th, 2016.
“This 1,886-foot [575 meter] tunnel, the first wildlife tunnel created anywhere in Russia, leaves a key wildlife travel corridor intact. The region is habitat for Amur leopards, one of the most endangered cat populations in the world, and is also home to endangered Amur (or Siberian) tigers.
“Research by Dr. Linda Kerley and Mikhail Borisenko of the Zoological Society of London (funded by the Wildlife Conservation Society) showed that the Narvinskii Pass was an important travel corridor for leopards and tigers. However, plans for a new highway across the pass threatened these cats.
“After this information was made public, construction plans were altered and focused on a tunnel beneath the pass, instead of a highway over it. Construction of the tunnel was conducted as part of the Far Eastern Leopards federal conservation program, which is overseen by the Russian President’s Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, who also attended the opening.
“The tunnel’s creation was possible due to efforts by Land of the Leopard National Park, Eurasian Centre for Leopard Preservation and Rehabilitation, Primorskii Province Administration, World Wildlife Fund, and Phoenix Fund.”
A Special Comment from Linda Kerley
“We snow tracked several leopards and tigers who crossed the road between a protected area and Narvinskii Pass, and it was clear this was good habitat and a critical linkage for them,“ said Linda Kerley. “But the proposed highway over the pass would have been disastrous for leopards and tigers, putting them at strong risk of car collisions and poaching.”
Photo: Cr. Phoenix Fund