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The project team has interviewed important ‘stakeholders’ who come into contact with the Red panda: park rangers and people who work in the buffer zones of national parks and conservation areas, but also farmers, shepherds, foresters, teachers, monks and law enforcement officers. The most important factors determining the distribution of the Red panda are altitude, vegetation and the aspect of a mountain slope. These factors will all be analysed in the research area, especially between 2,800m and 4,000m altitude. Reports indicate that in Nepal, India and Bhutan the Red panda only lives at these altitudes. Research has been carried out into habitat selection and sightings were recorded. A detailed distribution map has been composed, which also includes data gathered during earlier research in Nepal. The distribution map will not only help in determining (large) gaps in the distribution of the Red panda, but will also help identify (possible) corridors between protected areas or pinpoint those areas where corridors could be created. In addition, predictions can be made as to the effects of climate change on the distribution of the Red panda by comparing the current data with data from earlier research in Nepal.

Despite the fact that Red pandas occurred in the subtropical and temperate forest between 2,800m – 4,000m associated with bamboo thicket, a similar habitat to the present study areas of ANCA and KNP, the team did not find any Red pandas or any signs in both areas. In contrast, the results of social survey in ANCA indicated that the presence of Red pandas in ANCA. However, it seems that local people have limited knowledge about Red pandas, so results should be taken with caution. Further, the use of non-invasive technology such as camera trapping should be employed to confirm presence or absence of Red pandas in the study areas.

The project was focused not only on Amur tiger and Amur leopard conservation, but it has also helped protect other wildlife, such as the Asiatic black bears, brown bears and ungulate species which inhabit the ‘Land of the Leopard’ National Park (LLNP) in Far East Russia. By conducting regular anti-poaching patrols, rangers ensured security and protection of natural habitat that is home to as many as 1,300 plants, including 68 species listed in the Red Data Books of Russia, 329 vertebrates, 32 fish species, 12 reptiles, 65 mammals and 220 bird species. The LLNP serves as an ecological corridor connecting wildlife from Southwest Primorye to neighbouring protected areas in China.

The aim of the project was to conserve biodiversity through intensive anti-poaching activities. The objectives of the project were:

  • To improve anti-poaching efforts in ‘Land of the Leopard National Park’ with the use of drones;
  • To protect Amur leopards, tigers and other wildlife from poachers and forest fires.

Sometimes Bears in Mind also funds non-bear projects. Like this study on wolverines in Norway, between 2003-2008. The results of this study show that wolverines prefer the high alpine regions, but are also attracted to the area below the treeline. In the crossing regions between high tundra and the lower forests the wolverine can find food in abundance. The flocks of sheep were a favourite target, but other (wild) prey was mainly eaten. In areas where wolves and wolverines live together, the wolverines feed on the elk carrion the wolves leave behind. Wolves came back in this region in the nineties. Several years later the wolverines arrived. Evidently the wolverines switched from eating elk (carrion and hunted) and small prey (hunted), to eating elk carrion exclusively. Wolverines are known as scavengers, but this varies according to the area they live in.

The analysis of the preferred habitat of wolf, lynx, bear and wolverine shows that these four species can live together. Each species uses the habitat in a different way. The wolverine prefers the higher areas while the wolf, lynx and bear are true forest dwellers. The lynx uses the lowest areas of the forest. Bears and wolves prefer to live somewhat higher up. Bears stay closest to the wolverines and were seen feeding on the same carcass on rare occasions.

Research has shown that >20% of the southwestern Primorsky Krai, a region of almost 7,500 km2, is impacted by forest fires each year. Within this region there is also a small UNESCO biosphere reserve “Kedrova Path”, where the Amur leopard still lives. Each year 7% of the area is destroyed by fire. Between 2002-2008, nearly 30% of the reserve has been affected by fire. Especially shrubs, trees and seedlings burn but the larger trees usually survive the fires. If the old large trees die, the forest will slowly change into grassland. This habitat is not suitable for tigers and leopards, nor for the brown- and black bears which live in the same area.

The importance of firebreaks
Forest fires are more frequent in areas where people live. Most fires are started by farmers in order to refertilize their land. Old and dead plant material is removed to stimulate growth of new grass for cattle to graze. However, also the more remote areas which are leased by hunters, are more frequently burnt. The new growth of grass attracts deer and other wildlife. Unfortunately, this also gives poachers easier access to their prey.

Bears in Mind donated a bulldozer for the park management to create the necessary firebreaks.

Bears in Mind has supported the development of the Large Carnivore Education Centre in Vlahi, in the Pirin Mountains. Various other projects in this region (see links to the projects below) have also been supported. After completion, the centre has been in full use. Not only school children, but also students and tourists visit the centre to learn about Bulgarian wildlife which features information on the countries carnivores. A small shop has been opened and visitors can enjoy coffee and a snack in the small café. On the second floor an interactive exhibition is set up, highlighting examples of conflicts between humans and carnivores and their possible solutions. In addition, a room is converted to make it suitable for workshops and (small) conferences. 

Near the educational centre the bear enclosure for former circusbear Medo and bear Buya (from Kormisosh) was built. At the beginning of August 2019 these bears have been relocated to a new home in Northern Italy.


Bear Alert is developed by Bears in Mind to keep track of the many captive bears, often living under horrible conditions, in order to help as many individuals as possible. Over time, Bears in Mind has gathered information on more than 400 of these bears. Some of them have already been rescued from their miserable existence and brought to a sanctuary or zoo where proper care and space could be offered. Other bears unfortunately died before we could we do anything. But most of them still await a better life…

The individual reports about bears will be processed into a database. Short term solutions will be considered next. In most cases Bears in Mind staff will consult with her local partner NGO and / or with the owner of the animal to give advise on husbandry, food and water. Simple enrichment methods for the cages are used such as leafy tree branches or a play object. These methods are often cheap and easy to create and make the life of the bear somewhat more pleasant. In other cases, if legally possible, bears will be confiscated and relocated to a better facility.

Semperviva is a Bulgarian organization which started to breed livestock uarding dogs again. Every year, one or two litters of puppies are raised. When the puppies are old enough they are taken (for free) to pre-selected shepherds, who sign an agreement confirming their understanding of how to take care of the dogs. The dogs need to work in pairs and very often a younger pup is trained by an adult dog. With its follow-up programme Semperviva checks on the dogs twice a year until they are confident that the dogs behaviour is appropriate. Bears in Mind funded the breeding project between 2002-2011.

In the old days, the Karakachan dog breed was used specially to protect flocks of sheep. The Semperviva programme makes it possible for shepherds to obtain a puppy and receive training in how to care for the dogs and use them to protect their livestock. Every year, a dozen puppies were placed in the eastern part of the Rhodopy mountains in Bulgaria. Furthermore, the number of attacks by bears and wolves before and after the introduction of the dogs are compared. Over the years, it has been proven that flocks accompanied by these dogs have suffered substantially less losses to large carnivores.

In the Russian Far East, two of the world’s most endangered big cats occur: the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) and the Amur or Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). The estimated wild population (2021) of these leopards is around 100 individuals and the tiger population hangs around 500-550 animals. The necessity to protect these two species is eminently clear and will also benefit the brown bear and Asiatic black bear populations, which occur in the same habitat. The Phoenix Foundation has organized many different activities, ranging from educational activities for kids, asking media attention, executing research projects and setting up anti-poaching teams. Bears in Mind supports the anti-poaching teams.

Red Wolf Brigade
Since January 2002 the Red Wolf anti-poaching team has been patrolling the perimeter and the core of the wildlife refuge. Their activities range from confiscating poached wildlife, illegal rifles and fining people for violation of hunting regulations. The rangers are also involved in making fire breaks and providing food and saltlicks during harsh winters for the prey animals of the leopards and tigers. They also visit schools and give lectures to people who visit the forests.

Borisovkoye Plateau
Borisovkoye Plateau wildlife refuge has always been considered as one of the best remaining tracts of the leopard habitat. During the tiger census in January 2000 the tracks of seven leopards, two or three tigers, and 60-70 fresh ungulate tracks (per 10 km² of route) were found on the monitoring site including the Borisovkoye Plateau wildlife refuge and Nezhinskoye hunting society. The 2003-2005 surveys showed the same leopard and tiger density. It proves the important role that protection of territories and anti-poaching activities play in leopard and tiger conservation.

The important anti-poaching work done by Phoenix Fund was continued & supported from 2013 onwards by Bears in Mind under the project Conservation Drones in Russia.


Phoenix Fund