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Venison for lunch? China woos Siberian tigers to the Changbai Mountains

By The Siberian Times reporter
31 July 2012

Red deer stag, pictured in Europe 

The number of tigers has dwindled in recent decades with only 15 or 20 now believed to be living in the wild. 

'The release is part of a tiger recovery trial project run by the World Wild Fund for Nature and the Forestry Department of Jilin Province,' reported China Daily. 

'It aims to repopulate the area where China's few remaining tigers live with desirable prey, a crucial first step in improving living conditions of the endangered big cat.'

A recent survey backed by the WWF identified a lack of prey as a key reason discouraging the settlement of tigers in Northeast China.

Factors leading to decline of the tiger in the wild include deforestation, economic development and poaching. 

More than 500 tigers live in the wild in Russia and the latest move is aimed at encouraging them to into the  Changbai Mountains - known in Russia as the Vostochno-Manchzhurskie gory or East Manchurian mountain range.

'There is very little prey for the 15 wild Siberian tigers now living in the Changbai Mountains, which limits the growth of tiger numbers in China. We believe that releasing deer will help recovery efforts. Increasing the breeding population of the prey will restore the food supply chain and help attract the settlement of Siberia tigers in the long run,' Fan Zhiyong, director of the WWF China's species programme, was quoted as saying.

'The Siberian tiger population is nearing saturation in Russia, while China's Changbai Mountain, Wanda Mountain and Greater Khingan Range are very suitable places for them to settle,' added Fan.

'It is a great chance for China to attract wild tigers back home because we have not seen them since the 1970s. And we want them to settle down in China, not roam around the border', said Jiang Guangshun, a leading tiger researcher from Northeast Forestry University.

The 30 red and sika deer were released in the Wangqing Nature Reserve. It is hoped they will 'reestablish the food chain for wild Siberian tigers'.

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