BEIJING, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Volunteers in China cleared 162 illegal wire snares in an effort to protect the surviving population of endangered Siberian tigers, U.S. conservationists say.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York, said its members struggled with freezing temperatures and deep snow as they searched the northeastern province of Heilongijang to clear snares set by poachers.
Volunteers including doctors, computer engineers, public servants and college students worked alongside the group's staff, a WCS release said Tuesday.
"It's heartening to see a new generation of environmentally committed young Chinese willing and able to volunteer their time to do something challenging but important for their country's natural heritage," Joe Walston, WCS Director of Asia Programs, said. "Tigers need our help whether it's from grass roots efforts like these or governments putting more funding toward [poaching] enforcement."
Very few Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, exist in China, although conservationists say they are encouraged by reports of tigers venturing into the area from the nearby Russian Far East, where several hundred of the animals remain.
WCS estimates fewer than 3,500 tigers -- about 1,000 of them breeding females -- remain in the wild.