Amur Tiger

The animal commonly thought of as the national symbol of Russia is the Brown Bear. But if you are resident of Russian Far East, you would say that Russia is Tiger Country.The Amur Tiger, commonly called the Siberian Tiger, is one of the biggest cats in the world. The name “Siberian” is actually incorrect because these tigers do not live in Siberia but the Russian Far East in the Primorski and Khabarovsky regions whilst a few are found across the border in northern China and Korea.

In the last seventy year three sub-species of tiger have desappered from face of the earth. The Amur Tigers are in serious danger and in the past hundred years the amount of these beautiful animals was as low of less than 50 individuals in the middle of the twentieth century. It gained protection and numbers increased until the present day when numbers may be up to 400 adult individuals. There six main strict national preserve (zapovednik) in this region and several nature sanctuaries (zakaznik) to provide protection for Amur Tigers. They together are just 10% of the habitat the subspecies needs to survive. Add to this habitat destruction from forest fires and logging - the Tigers are clearly hemmed in. However this is far from the worst of their woes…

Amur Tiger

Photo taken from WWF Russia official website.
Male Amur Tiger can reach lengths of up to 13 feet or 4 meters long, including the tail and many weigh as much as 350 kilograms!!!

Hunting Tigers in Russia was banned in 1947 but with the dissolution of the Soviet Union illegal hunting has been fueled by demand from across the borders in China and Korea. Tiger poaching is driven by an insatiable demand for tiger skins, bones and body parts used in traditional Chinese Medicine. The Chinese Medicine believes that tiger parts will cure disease. A tiger’s penis is sought after as an aphrodisiac. Tiger whiskers are hacked-off in the crazy belief that they will induce the birth of boy in preference to a girl. The leftovers are literally food for Chinese. This prospering market for tigers is right on Russian’s doorstep! China literally destroyed its own wild tiger population years ago.

There are numbers of anti-poaching units, inspection tiger teams, in the region. Despite the great efforts of anti-poaching units, border guards and customs officers, Amur Tiger skins and bones are still being smuggled into China.

Amur Tiger in Moscow Zoo

Photo taken from Moscow Zoo website.

The Strategy for Saving the Amur Tiger in Russia, developed and published in 1996, explicitly outlines the scope of measures required. The Strategy presently demands amendment with changes in the tiger population and living conditions, and new man-caused influences.

In the recent years, international cooperation has played an increasingly important role in the protection of the Amur Tiger. The United States' Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) launched radio monitoring research on the Russian-US project Amur Tiger in 1994. In 1999, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched a number of projects to save the Amur Tiger from extinction. Currently, a Russian-American research programme, involving radio frequency tracking, is underway. Russia has also started a research project on tigers and leopards in cooperation with China and North Korea.

The only way to save the Amur Tiger from extinction is captive breeding. Amur Tigers live and breed well in many zoos across the world. They are fed with meat of various animals, fish and byproducts. Once a week, tigers have a diet day. All the Amur Tigers of the North American and European zoos are listed in herd books, with strictly planned, mathematic model-based crossing used to ensure genetic diversity and prevent inbreeding. Tigers are frequently transported for crossbreeding to other zoos, sometimes abroad, with the Moscow Zoo taking an active part in the process.

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