Natural World Hero

Alexander Batalov

director, researcher and protective warden over some of the last remaining habitat of the world's largest big cat, the Amur Tiger

Dedicated to saving the habitat of the siberian tiger - Alexander Batalov

Born in Russia, Alexander Batalov dedicates his life to the conservation of the Amur or Siberian tiger. Responsible for establishing the Durminskoye reserve, set 100 kilometers from the city of Khabarovsk in the basin of the river Durmin, he works tirelessly as director, researcher and protective warden over some of the last remaining habitat of the world's largest big cat.

Since graduating from the Wildlife Faculty of the Irkutsk State Academy of Agriculture in Irkutsk, Siberia, Alexander has spent the last 35 years working in wildlife management. During his career he has trained over 600 students in forestry specialisms and has also published around 40 scientific studies on wildlife ecology. He is an expert on methods for monitoring and tracking wildlife populations; skills put to good use in the Durminskoye reserve where works alongside his son Sergey Batalov. Much of their work includes making use of camera trap technology to keep photo and video observations of the wild animals and tiger residing in the reserve.

His various career successes include working as author of the successful redesign project of the Komsomolsk State preserve, acting as vice director on the scientific work at the Bolshekhetsirsky State reserve and working with Priamurskiye Vedomosti Publishing House resulting in Russia's first edition of locally produced photo books specifically about the Amur tiger and Himalayan bear, published in both Russian and English.

Interview with Alexander Batalov

Obviously you have a huge passion for the “Ussuri taiga” area within the Khabarovsk territory and its tigers. Why do you feel it is such an important natural world location, in terms of ecosystems and wildlife?

Ussuri forests in the South-East of Russia are a unique creation of nature, where after the ice age, the flora and fauna of Northern and Southern latitudes of the Asian continent were preserved in one area. Here Coniferous forests of Northern Siberia are mixed with broad-leaved forests of South-East Asia and it's the habitat of southern species like Amur tiger and Himalayan bear, as well as of the Northern species like lynx and brown bear. Here the largest number of rare and endangered animals and plants is concentrated which cannot be found anywhere else on the vast spaces of Russia.

So to live in this region and especially to work in Ussuri forests, for the purpose of research and conservation of rare species of animals and, above all, the Amur tiger and Himalayan bear, I think, is the greatest happiness given to me by fate and God.

For me the tiger in the Ussuri woods are an eternal symbol; equal in importance as the polar bear in the Arctic or penguin in Antarctica that should live there forever.

What has been your best natural world experience to date?

To know the natural world in this region has meant I have gained wide experience as a biologist. To get here I had to work in different branches dealing with wildlife and game reserves that gave me new experiences almost every day. I worked in forestry as a chief specialist of the Training Center of Future Specialists of Forestry (trained over 600 students in total) and later - in the reserved sector on the post of Deputy Director on scientific work. I was fortunate to be a director of the project for the reorganization of the Komsomolsk State natural reserve, which is now successfully operating. I'm professional in these major sectors of natural resources management by now and it gives me the opportunity to address the issue of conservation of nature from all sides and make the right decisions which are considered by the government.

What high priority conservation challenges do you feel the natural world is facing at the moment?

It is, above all, the preservation of the habitats of all animals, without exception, and each is composed of a unique natural complex. I think that logging activities in the region should be gentle to nature and in many places must be discontinued altogether. In such areas it is better to develop tourist facilities and arrange ecological tours, including international tourism, focused on rare and endangered species of animals and plants and, first of all, on the Amur tiger and Himalayan bear.

Can we as members of the public do anything that genuinely help preserve the natural world?

Sure, we can! If every person who cares and wants to protect wild nature will put even a small effort the result of all combined efforts will be evident and impressive.

We also are trying to make our contribution in wildlife protection. Our special integrated forest reserve, 100 kilometers from the city of Khabarovsk in the basin of the river Durmin. We managed to combine successfully restricted hunting, forestry and conservation activities. 13 tiger cubs were born at our reserve and surrounding area in the last 2 years. Here students are trained for the biological profile; the annual monitoring of the tiger, Himalayan bear and other animals is conducted, and international ecotourism is being developed. Over the past two years, the reserve was visited by tourists from many countries (Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Italy, Slovakia, Switzerland, UK, and USA) who have seen and experienced a lot about our wonderful land.

Do you have a single defining moment when you knew that you would develop your passion into a career? What would you say to people looking to do the same?

This turning point was the decision to take responsibility for the preservation and protection of wildlife on a particular stretch of Ussury taiga. Creating integrated forestry, we initially aimed to conduct a comprehensive, rational use and protection of natural resources and to reduce poaching. For these purposes we constantly carry out preventive work with the local population, including teaching the younger generation the careful attitude to wild nature. We also identified the most interesting and important forest areas with rare animals and plants, which we planned as main routes for the students and tourists.

When dealing with new people, including people from other countries, we always learned something new and useful for conservation and environment, and we used it in further work. Thanks to eco-tourism we also managed to involve local people in this interesting employment.

Those who have decided to turn their passion for wildlife and travels into a career, it may be advised to follow their dreams and find their niche in this noble and necessary cause.

In your experience, what is the most effective approach to human-wildlife coexistence and conflict? How can they live in harmony more effectively?

It is very important to find the optimal combination of the various branches of the human activities and preservation of wild life. It is important not only to penetrate this purpose, but also methodologically correct approach to this problem, which is what we strive to do in our reserve.

Who is your Natural World Hero and why?

They are my teachers, which have international recognition, known in Russia and abroad; natural scientist, a specialist in animal behavior Professor Korytin Sergei Aleksandrovich (Kirov, Russia) and journalist Vasily Peskov (Moscow), they devoted his whole life to the study and public awareness of nature conservation.

Who or which organisation do you feel is doing important work ‘on-the-ground’ or in the field? 

The World Wide Fund of nature protection.

Who are the next generation of Natural World Heroes?

The next generation of heroes of the world may be many people of different professions, religions from different continents, who devoted his life to the service of protection of nature on planet Earth.

Rainforest, desert, savannah, ice, beach and the ocean, mountains - where do you feel most at home?

In addition to the different climatic zones of Russia visited tropical forests and Savannah of southern and Central Africa, in South and North woods of the USA, everywhere feel comfortable and happy, watching something new, but Ussuri forests are for me a real home. Living near tigers and bears for many years, and knowing their lives in these places, you feel like a person can not only study them, but also can protect our common home.

When visiting unique natural world destinations, how can travellers best experience these places in a way that helps to protect them?

Any journey into the unknown unique places is a holiday for travelers and a great responsibility - not to harm, not to disturb the animal world. It is very important after such a visit and obtaining new knowledge and emotions to be able to share them with fellow citizens when returning home. For these purposes, I participate in the production of literature in ecology in the Khabarovsk region. In collaboration with the publishing house "Amur Vedomosti" it was possible to produce more than 20 books, textbooks and photo albums about the unique nature of the Amur-Ussuri region, as well as quite a lot of popular science articles in magazines and newspapers.

What is your dream natural world destination that you haven’t yet done but would like to?

My dream is to visit India and Australia, to see the Indian tiger and rare animals of the Green continent.

What natural world insight or thought provoking conservation or question would you like to leave us with?

I was able to drive around in cars, fly on airplanes around planet Earth and when you feel it in a single complex, you know how small it is and how important it is to safeguard it, to any natural area regardless of its location. Every person born on this planet should know about it as much as possible and our goal is not only to tell about it, but on a personal example to show how you can help to save it.