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Tiger sensation

By The Siberian Times reporter
13 August 2015

Proof of recovery of endangered species after 'historic' sighting of Siberian tiger 2000 km west of its usual habitat.

Siberian tiger 'caught' by photo trap in the National Park Land of Leopard. Picture: Land of Leopard

Farm hand Sergey Portnykh left his son Vladislav in charge of a herd of cows with calves after they had lost a week-old calf to a mystery predator. At 10am on 4 August, Vladislav was on horseback when he saw the creature return to a field on the banks of the Onon River in TransBaikal region.

The teenager called his father, describing the attacker as 'fiery red with dark stripes', almost a metre high, and 'nearly a horse in length'. The tiger which had evidently returned for the remains of its victim, of which only fragments of the spine and hind legs remained, or to make a fresh kill.

The sight of Vladislav on the horse made the big cat retreat, running through the shallow waters onto an island in the river. Sergey, from Mangut village, rushed to the field and glimpsed the beast in the bushes on the island.

Inspectors from Sokhondinsky Nature Reserve found footprints of the animal and confirmed it was an Amur - or Siberian - tiger, an endangered species with only 500 or so believed to be living in the wild. 

Siberian tiger footprint


Siberian tiger footprint

Inspectors from Sokhondinsky Nature Reserve found footprints of the animal and confirmed it was an Amur - or Siberian - tiger. Pictures: Sokhondinsky Nature Reserve

The sighting in TransBaikal region has caused excitement among wildlife experts because the animal was far to the west of its usual habitat around the Amur River in the Far East of Russia.

Deputy director of the reserve Anna Malysheva said: 'The appearance of a tiger in Kyrinsky district has occurred for the first time.  And on the shores of the Onon River, in south of TransBaikal region, the tiger was not been seen for decades.'  

She said: 'This was an historical event reliably recorded for the first time, and a very pleasant surprise as it confirmed that our efforts to educate people have paid off.'

The Amur tiger population is believed to be making a marked recovery with curbs on hunting and a campaign to stop poaching. The footprint supports other alleged sightings of the tiger even further west in the TransBaikal region, and is seen as evidence that the species is in a far healthier state than at its low point - in the 1930s - when experts said there were only 20 to 30 wild tigers in Russia. 

Records show that in 1841 a tiger was shot in the Onon basin, but few sightings have been made since then so far west, although young tigers can migrate long distances from their native habitat, for example to Irkutsk region and territory close to Lake Baikal. 

Siberian tiger footprint


Siberian tiger footprint

Siberian tiger was spotted near Mangut village in some 2000 km west of its usual habitat. The map showing the historical habitat of Siberian Tiger. Pictures: The Siberian Times, Amur Informational Center

Maps of the Amur tiger distribution show how its habitat shrank in the 20th century to limited areas of Primorye region, some 2000 km from this part of the Onon River basin. The new sighting was around 30 km from the Russian border with Mongolia.

Ivan Belov, an expert from the Sokhondinsky Nature Reserve, said: 'The appearance of a tiger in the upper basin of the Onon River is another indisputable argument in favour of creating cross-border protected area, an international nature reserve.'

The sighting came as the forestry administration in China's Jilin province reported a rising number of both Siberian tigers and the rarer Amur leopards. Its annual survey found 27 Siberian tigers and 42 Amur leopards. Of the tigers and leopards seen this year, young cubs made up about half of the population, according to the survey.

Comments (2)

This is a great and wonderful time for all of you at tiger time you should all be extreemly proud of yourselves and your achievements as am I of you well done an continue the good work you all doing ,thanks to your hard work many many tigers will be saved,so proud to have signed up with you,good luck take care n I hope to hear from you all very soon x sue
sue jones, stoke on trent,staffordshire England
14/08/2015 18:40
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hope that the farmer gets re imbursed. so he bears no grudge against the tiger. the tiger might after all come back and kill more calves or a grown up animal. and law or not, the farmer for sure will not just stand there and look. he might shoot the tiger and just get rid of the carcasse. if for nothing else, just not to lose more animals.
another aspect is of course the safety of people. but suppose if/when a tiger, or any other animal, has enough food, it will get out of the way of humans.
Benedikt, Moscow,Russia
14/08/2015 11:56
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