||China’s rate of economic development has skyrocketed in the last few years. Habitat
loss due to development is one the greatest global threats to species. Already, an
estimated 40% of China’s ecosystems have been destroyed, and 15-20% of its species
are highly threatened. There are only a few last remaining areas of habitat in China
for the Amur tiger. One of these is the Hunchun Nature Reserve in northeast China,
though it is also home to several thousand rural farmers. This master's project analyzes
findings from a 113-household, 7-village survey completed in the summer of 2011.
The results explore the social and financial incentives of rural villagers living
in and around the Hunchun Nature Reserve. Currently, the husbandry of free-ranging
cattle within the reserve is one of the greatest factors in habitat encroachment and
destruction. The government in northeast China has announced that the beef industry
is a target growth area – a development that could cause the Amur tiger to be extirpated
from this reserve.
Findings show that cattle-raising is an insignificant part of rural household income,
and serves as a source of cash flow. Major barriers to community conservation projects
in Hunchun are a lack of trust between villagers and a lack of local leadership talent.
These findings, analyzed in conjunction with an eye toward social and market forces,
will help WCS China assess and implement community conservation plans to preserve
the habitat that Amur tigers require to survive.