Sergei Bereznuk is a recipient of a 2012 Rolex Award for Enterprise that will support the conservation of the Amur Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. altaica), which is listed as Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. By educating children and supporting anti-poaching rangers, Bereznuk has dedicated himself to saving this magnificent species from extinction.
Ninety-five percent of the remaining Amur Tiger population is found in the far east of Russia which is where Sergei Bereznuk’s conservation efforts are focused. The main threat to this species is poaching for use in traditional Chinese medicine but habitat destruction and the poaching of its prey are also threats to the Amur Tiger.
Sergei Bereznuk has been involved in tiger conservation since the mid-1990s when he became the deputy director of Inspection Tiger, an anti-poaching group. In 2000 he became Director of the Phoenix Fund, an NGO whose mission is to conserve the fauna and flora of the Russian Far East. Since then he has been actively involved in lobbying against illegal poaching and developments that threatens tiger habitat.
With the money from the Rolex Award, Sergei Bereznuk will continue his educational and anti-poaching projects. Already Bereznuk has equipped anti-poaching units working in four protected areas with GPS and patrol equipment; fuel for their vehicles; and uniforms. Special software allows the rangers to compare their data on the number and routes of their patrols along with their observations on tigers and wildlife. The Phoenix Fund will also give rangers and environmental officers bonuses to supplement their low pay and encourage them to continue working in conservation.
Aware that long term solutions are also needed, the Phoenix Fund supports educators to work with children to develop respect and care for the tiger and other wildlife. Every year a Tiger Day festival is held all over Primorsky Province and last year over 4,000 school children dressed as tigers participated in celebration in Vladivostok! Tiger Day Festival is a very powerful tool that stimulates public concern about the plight of the tiger in the wild and helps raise funds for tiger conservation.
“Anti-poaching activities alone will not win the war against poachers,” says Sergei Bereznuk. “We have to fight for the hearts and minds of the local people and we must educate our future generations. We must protect the tiger for our future before his time runs out!"
With the support of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Sergei Bereznuk and Project Phoenix will continue their conservation work that benefits not just the Amur Tiger, but all the wildlife found in the far east of Russia.
Applications for the 2014 Rolex Awards for Enterprise are now open and are exclusively devoted to young candidates aged between 18 and 30 years. For more information visit the Rolex Awards website.