Year of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Resource Conservation (International Conservation and Development)
Department or School/College
College of Forestry & Conservation
Dr. Christopher Servheen
Dr. Sarah Halvorson, Dr. Hugh Robinson
poaching, primorye, tiger, spatial statistics
University of Montana
Natural Resources and Conservation
Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) populations worldwide have been drastically reduced in number over the past several decades. The Primorye region of the Russian Far East remains one of the final strongholds for the estimated 400 Siberian tigers remaining in the wild. As a flagship species, Siberian tigers play a crucial socio-economic role in helping agencies and non-profits to motivate, fund, and implement broader conservation efforts. Even while defended by organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Siberian tigers in Primorye face an onslaught of threats to their continued existence. Profound land use changes due to the proliferation of wildfire (habitat loss), and the effects of wildlife poaching (loss of prey and individual tigers) represent the greatest threats to Siberian tigers in this region. Understanding where wildfire and poaching are most likely to occur can help inform fire management strategies, and anti-poaching ranger patrols led by WCS and the Russian National Park Service. I used a spatial statistics approach to model predictions of wildfire occurrence, and the likelihood of poaching violations across a 7,440 km2 portion of Southwest Primorye, which includes the 2,620 km2 Land of the Leopard National Park.
I found that wildfires are tied to the presence of humans on the landscape. Proximity to settlements and roadways were highly correlated with an increased likelihood of burning. Additionally, terrain characterized by low slopes, and drier, south aspects were also at an increased risk of burning. Predictive mapping of wildfire indicated that coastal areas in the central portion of the study area, and much of the northern extent of the study area are the most likely to experience burning. My occupancy model-based investigation of poaching violations found that proximity to human development, and topographical features both affect the probability of rangers detecting a direct or indirect poaching violation on the landscape. In particular, my findings indicate that poaching is most likely to occur outside of protected areas in lower slope valleys where people are more easily able to traverse the landscape on foot or by vehicle. The northern terminus of the study area, and a northwest central pocket of the study area both indicated relatively high (~30%) probabilities of poaching violations occurring. By modeling and spatially mapping both wildfire and poaching violation likelihood, my work can help inform WCS and Russian Park Service management strategies to help maintain intact Siberian tiger habitat, and reduce the loss of tigers as a consequence of direct and indirect poaching.
Phelan, Conor N., "Predictive spatial modeling of wildfire occurrence and poaching events related to Siberian tiger conservation in Southwest Primorye, Russian Far East" (2018). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11172.
© Copyright 2018 Conor N. Phelan