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Pyotr Tyan-Shanskiy, 1856

Fears for unique wildlife as heavy snowfall reaches depths of one metre

By The Siberian Times Reporter
20 January 2015

Animal charity WWF Russia in plea for help to prevent repeat of 1980s winter crisis that killed 90% of species in the region.

'Nearly all the roes, wild boars and Siberian stags died'. Picture: Roman Kozhechev, WWF Russia

Abnormally heavy snowfall is threatening to decimate much of Siberia’s unique wildlife including the rare Amur tiger, experts have warned. Parts of the Russian Far East are covered in snow up to one metre deep, burying many animals and leaving others struggling to move or find food.

Conservationists have already noted cases of young animals dying, with fears the situation could be as bad as the 1980s when up to 90 per cent of species died, including 30 tigers. WWF Russia is demanding urgent measures to prevent a similar catastrophe, with the Amur and Moscow branches of the charity in touch with regional hunting estates to ask them to help feed animals in their areas and prevent poaching.

Pavel Fomenko, the Amur branch coordinator at WWF Russia, said: 'I remember a similar winter at the end of the 1980s, when the snow was so deep that we lost 80 per cent to 90 per cent of all ungulates. I was a part of the inspection team and it was horrifying. The whole valley of the Amba and Bikin rivers turned into a gigantic graveyard. Nearly all the roes, wild boars and Siberian stags died'.

'What happened next was even scarier as during the next winter the tigers were left without pray, and so naturally besieged villages and small towns, hunting dogs, cows and other animals. The official data for that winter shows that more than 30 tigers were killed'.

Fears for unique wildlife as heavy snowfall reaches depths of one metre
Fears for unique wildlife as heavy snowfall reaches depths of one metre. Picture: Roman Kozhechev, WWF Russia


Two months-worth of snow fell during the month of December alone in the Russian Far East, leaving depths of up to one metre in places.

There is a ‘critical depth’ for animals in this region: 30cm for deer and roe, 40cm to 50 cm for Siberian stags and wild boars and 70cm for elks. It means the snow is already three times deeper than is safe for deer to survive.

Crucially, it is only the middle of winter with at least two more months of snowfall to come.

The Amur tiger, more commonly known as the Siberian tiger, is listed as an endangered species, with less than 400 of them left in the region.

People in Russia are being urged to help WWF fund their efforts to save the animals by texting the word 'tiger' (тигр) in Russian to 3443. One message costs 100 roubles ($1.50).

Comments (3)

Nature is neither benign or cruel ,indifferent to what people think.
JW, Great Mills, USA
09/02/2015 01:44
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"'.. I remember a similar winter at the end of the 1980s ..."
Is this a clue that the climate is cooling, not warming as the government agencies say?
Demih, Knoxville TN, USA
28/01/2015 04:32
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2
Heart-breaking to see such beautiful wildlife in peril...snow has such sublime beauty...a true gift from nature but why then can it cause such chaos within the natural world...an enigma...
Ann, Ireland
21/01/2015 06:56
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1

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