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20:57 GMT +3 hours20 December 2014
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WWF Russia protests Far East deforestation plans

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The World Wildlife Fund in Russia is taking a stand against plans by a private firm in Russia's Far East to launch lumber production in an area inhabited by the endangered Amur tiger, a senior WWF Russia official said on Wednesday.

The World Wildlife Fund in Russia is taking a stand against plans by a private firm in Russia's Far East to launch lumber production in an area inhabited by the endangered Amur tiger, a senior WWF Russia official said on Wednesday.

"We have been working with this company for a long time, trying to find the most ecological ways of cooperation," said Yury Darman, who heads the WWF's Amur project.

He said Les (forest) Export, a member of the association of ecologically responsible firms, had gone behind WWF's back to secure a license to cut down virgin forest in the Srendeussuriisky protected area.

The forest forms a bridge between the Amur tiger populations in Russia and China, Darman said.

Despite massive efforts to protect the Amur tiger population, estimates say only about 450 individuals are left in the wild, most of them in Russia's Far East.

About 40 Les Export employees marched on Wednesday in front of the WWF office in Vladivostok to protest against "groundless" claims by the wildlife watchdog, which they say may leave them without work.

A local arbitrary court has granted Les Export the right to produce lumber in the controversial territories, despite a claim against the company by the local forestry commission.

WWF Russia will turn to the local administration, prosecutor's office and other controlling bodies to try to block the deforestation project, Darman said.

Les Export Director Denis Condratyuk described WWF's protest as "illegal."

VLADIVOSTOK, June 8 (RIA Novosti)