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Author(s) of the publication: Viktor KOSTENKO

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by Viktor KOSTENKO, Dr. Sc. (Biol.), Head Scientific Associate, Biology-and-Soil Science Institute of the RAS Far Eastern Branch

Natural complexes of Primorye (the Maritime Territory of the Far East) are specific in many ways: these are forests of the Sikhote-Alin mountain system, Lake Khanka and adjacent lowlands, and plentiful rivers. The wildlife of the area is unique indeed. A Red Data Book brought out by ABK Apelsin Publishers is an important contribution to the protection of our national heritage.

This happened at the international ecological forum ["Nature without Frontiers" ("Nature sans frontiers") held in Vladivostok in June 2006: the Maritime Territory Governor's first prize for a valuable contribution to the cause of living nature protection was awarded to a group of researchers that had produced a Red Data Book on rare and endangered animal species. As its executive editor 1 am often asked why such great importance is attached to this regional publication and what makes it a standout so many among documents put out by the Nature Protection Unions-international and of the Russian Federation. Now I shall try to answer this question.

Back at the close of the 19th century experts came to realize that for a balanced functioning of natural communities it was important to protect all species of the Earth's plant and animal kingdom. However, it was solely in the past few decades that this principle has moved to the foreground in the new system of universal human priorities. The fact is that

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the progress of civilization endangers ever new species of wildlife and vegetation, putting them on the verge of extinction. Man's economic activity is the reason behind the dwindling population of certain widespread animals due to changes in their habitat. The effect of rapacious hunting may add to the negative results. Moreover, endemic species and those confined exclusively to certain areas attract the collectors' attention. Besides, poachers catch rare insects, shellfish, frogs and birds on a considerable scale.

That is why in the mid-20th century research into itemizing rare species assumed a global scope and came to be regarded as one of the main spheres of activity of the International Nature Protection Union (INPU) set up in 1948. The international Red Data Book (the volume Animals was first brought out in 1963 and Plants-'m 1978) came as a natural result of this research, and new revised editions of these books appear as information is updated. National Red Data Books, with their legal status valid in all countries, are also published. For instance, the Red Data Bookofthe USSR was prepared for publication in 1978, and the updated volume Animals came off the press in Russia in 1998. Its new revised edition put out in 2001 incorporated the updated information on the number, propagation and condition of animal populations.

STATE DOCUMENT FOR RARE SPECIES

In fact not all countries have granted a state document status to Red Data Books on the animal kingdom of particular region. However, Russia treats all such Red Data Books as state documents. Any species entered there shall be entitled to legal protection. And the words "Official Publication" on the cover mean that our book's materials will serve as a basis for nature protection activity of territorial governmental departments, including custom-houses and administrations

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of the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Nature Management. The state commission of experts appraising the effect of various construction projects on the environment has to use our data set. Our information is certainly indispensable to the layout of specially protected natural territories.

As a rule, the larger the region, the more significant it is for nature protection, except for certain rather small territories with exceptional biological diversity and a great number of endemic or rare species or those on the verge of extinction on a worldwide scale. The Maritime Territory also belongs to this group. It is a habitat of five types of wildlife: Amur (Manchurian), Okhotsk-Kamchatka (Behring), East Siberian (Angara), Daurian-Mongolian and alpine. The world's only viable Amur tiger and Far Eastern (snow) leopard have survived in Ussuri and southern forests. The brown bear and its southern cousin Asiatic black bear may occur within one and the same biotope. Moreover, it is a habitat of the local fool hen, fish eagle owl and of the goat antelope, among other rare species. It is not by chance that as many as 164 animal species of the territory have been entered in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. So, in this respect Primorye is a leader among all other Russia's regions. Such unique biological diversity is of great global significance.

More than 40 scientists (14 Doctors of Sciences and 21 Candidates of Sciences), most of them specialists of

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the Biological-and-Soil-Science Institute of the RAS Far Eastern Branch, have contributed to the Red Data Book of Primorye (the Maritime Territory). Redkiye pozvonochniye zhivotniye sovetskogo Dalnego Vostoka i ikh okhrana (Rare Vertebrates of the Soviet Far East and Their Protection). A collection (ed. by Pavel Ler; Nauka Publishers, Leningrad, 1989) was brought out at an intermediary stage. Its materials were used by the authors of the Long-Term Program for Nature Protection and Rational Utilization of Natural Resources of the Maritime Territory up until 2005 and by contributors to the present Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. Updated information of the local wildlife will be included in its revised edition scheduled for 2010.

In compiling the regional document the authors proceeded from the systems and principles accepted in its federal version, though with some modifications. Photographs and drawings of animals illustrate the texts. The description of most of them is supplemented with the diagram-map of the area of their habitat and certain places within the territory where scientists were lucky enough to find rare species. For each of these we have supplied information about their population and limiting factors, and we have suggested protective measures as well.

The authors have collected most of the Red Data Book materials in the course of their long painstaking research over several decades. Expeditions were sent to out-of - the way regions in taiga woodlands. The original photographs of animals were not at all easy to take. For instance, Sergei Avdyuk spent several years surveying the habitat of the fish eagle owl, one of the world' largest eagle owls found in mountain river valleys. The bird is noted for great caution, especially in the egg-laying period and in the initial hatching stages. It may leave for good its nesting grounds even if disturbed but once. It was only just recently that Avdyuk has managed to take a photograph of a fish eagle owl.

The regional Red Data Book differs from its federal counterpart in that we have pinpointed the animals' habitat on the maps, and not just marked the probable habitats with a contour line. This is important for the protection of rare species,

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for observing and monitoring their populations because now it will be much easier to locate them.

Apart from the species entered in the Red Data Books of the INPU and of the Russian Federation and also those recommended by the Natural Resources Ministry of the Russian Federation as needing special protection (due to vague information on their population), we have added a number of species found primarily in the regions adjoining the Maritime Territory. The fact is that peripheral populations are quite small and tend to decrease. The new document supplies information on a total of 283 animal species (subspecies): 51 shellfish, 50 insects, 31 - fresh-water and sea fish, 2 amphibians, 4 reptiles, 112 birds and 33 mammals.

THERE IS PROTECTION AND PROTECTION

The present edition of the Red Data Book is particularly valuable in that it supplies information on the condition of animal populations with respective recommendations on protective measures. Thus, on the basis of original data we have come to the conclusion that in the federal document the status should be upgraded for 23 species inhabiting Primorye, and it should be downgraded for 36 species. I shall cite several examples.

The Kurentsov grasshopper (Hypsopedes kurentzovi), currently endemic in a very narrow habitat area, occurs only on three South Sikhote-Alin mountain tops. We recommend to enter this species in the federal Red Data Book as rare (it corresponds to the third group in the current classification*).

The relict Capricorn (long-horned) beetle (Callipogon relictus), described in North Eastern China, Korea and Southern Maritime Territory, has been entered in the federal Red Data Book with the definition of a "dwindling population" (second group). However, we believe that it should be given the status of an endangered (threatened) species (within the first group), for the condition of this insect's population throughout the area is critical. On the Korean Peninsula it is on the verge of extinction.

The Filipyev moth butterfly (Maslovskiafilipjevi) has been classified in the first group in the federal document. But we think that there is no trustworthy proof of its contracting habitats in the Maritime Territory. The moth butterfly should be recognized as rare (third group), i.e. downgraded in its status.

The Japanese (hermit) beetle (Osmoderrna opticum) of the coleopterus order, lamellicorn family, has been entered in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. It was discovered in 1989, in the south of the Maritime Territory only. Its habitat is coniferous-and-broad-leaved forests primarily on the Sikhote-Alin southern slopes and in the East Manchurian Mountains. The beetle's habitat areas have not been yet studied, it thrives in rotten moldering wood and in the moldering trunks of deciduous trees. That is why tree felling and forest fires contribute to a decrease in the population of this species. And we recommend that it be put on the list of specially protected natural objects of the Ussuri Reserve, with massive tree felling to be forbidden in its habitat areas. Protective measures for ecosystems, including those against fires, are also important.

The horned moorhen (Gallicrex cinerea) (crane order, Rallidae family) has been entered in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as a rare species. Indeed, its population is small and is to be found on the outskirts of the species habitat area. Moreover, its nesting is not systemat-


* The classification offered by the Commission on Rare and Endangered Animal Species under the Natural Resources Ministry of the Russian Federation on November 1, 1997. The following groups of animal species are singled out: 0 - probably extinct, 1 - endangered (threatened), 2 - dwindling populations, 3 - rare, 4 - indefinite status, 5 - those being, or have been restored. - Auth.

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ic in the southern Maritime Territory. However, it needs no special protection: no one hunts for it and violates its habitat areas.

The population of the punctuated (sika) deer (Cervusnippon Iwrtulorum) is a special case. Its herds of hundreds thousands had been roaming the Maritime Territory until the end of the 19th century. Subsequently lots of them fell prey to rapacious hunters out to obtain the antlers of young stags. If we add the thick snow cover in winter and man's intensive economic activity, it will become quite clear why by the early 20th century the population of the punctuated deer herd had contracted to about 10,000, and in the 1960s there were only 1000 of them. After the deer had been entered in the Red Data Books of the USSR and of the Russian Federation and certain protective measures introduced, the deer herd increased notably: its numbers rose to 3,000 - 3,500 in 1982 and to about 10,000 in the early 1990s. At present punctuated, or sika deer graze in all suitable areas in the south of the territory and their habitat area slowly but surely expands to the north. Now that their population has been restored, their negative effect is also felt, for they have actually "devoured" a considerable part of young forest and bushes in the central part of the Ussuri and Lazovsky Reserves as well as in the Pogranichny and Khassansky and turned forests there into virtual parklands. That is why we recommend that this species be struck off the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. To prevent rapacious poaching hunting should conform to the code and regulations our territory.

At the same time analysis of the propagation of Red Data Book species has shown that not all their habitat areas are extant in the reserves and game sanctuaries of the Maritime Territory. Using the regional Red Data Book materials it is necessary to specify the borders of these specially protected natural territories and also of the territories of natural parks, monuments of nature, and so on.

For instance, the Manchurian field-vole (Myospalaxpsilurus espilanus), a rodent with its habitat underground, has suffered much from agricultural land development projects. The population of this endemic subspecies is contracting and the area of its habitat in Russia is limited: its sparsely populated colonies have been observed solely in four isolated sections of the southwestern part of the Khanka Plain. Game sanctuaries should be organized in the valleys of the upper reaches of the Nesterovka, Komissarovka and Borisovka to save these rodents. Hay-making and livestock-grazing could be permitted, but no soil-plowing.

Let's take one more example. Water and water-logged-and-boggy ground pollution with chemicals washed from agricultural fields, i.e., degradation of the environment, kills fish and birds in the Lake Khanka basin. That is why specialized "fish" sanctuaries will the most effective measure. Moreover, in order to restore their populations and then turn to fish-breeding on an industrial scale, we recommend that fish hatcheries be set up in the Lake Khanka basin.

Let me stress yet another important aspect of the document prepared by us, i.e., popularization of the ideas of preservation and restoration of living nature as well as ecological education of the population, primarily, of schoolchildren and young people. Small wonder that the book's entire print (4,500 copies) has been distributed mostly in the schools of the territory. Regrettably, the book has not been on free sale, so most of the local population let alone people elsewhere could not familiarize themselves with it. It would be a good idea to prepare an electronic version of the Red Data Book of the Maritime Territoiy.


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Viktor KOSTENKO, FOR LIVING NATURE'S SAKE // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 20.10.2018. URL: https://libmonster.com/m/articles/view/FOR-LIVING-NATURE-S-SAKE (date of access: 07.12.2021).

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