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Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment

By The Siberian Times reporter
16 January 2019

Alpha male big cat - believed to be at least 15 years old - ready to get back to saving his endangered species.

Tikhon the Amur tiger. Picture: Land of the Leopard

The predator recently amazed wildlife experts by appearing at a Russian border post with China and refusing to leave, apparently seeking the assistance of people. 

Why did he behave in this way? Was he ready to go on pension, and in need of a quiet life?

Even when border guards fired warning shots, the predator refused to leave. 

This Siberian tiger - a long-living and distinguished member of one of the world’s most endangered species -  appeared weak and wounded, able only to hunt dogs rather than his usual ungulates.

After he was sedated, veterinary specialists soon realised an overriding problem - tooth decay. 

Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment

Now his jaw has been patched up, and Tikhon is released into a large fenced compound at the Tiger Rehabilitation Centre near Alekseyevka village. Pictures: Land of the Leopard Nature Reserve


The dentists got to work. 

Specialist Emma Muradyan said: 'Because the tiger is rather senior, the front part of his lower and upper jaws had distinctive dental abrasion.’

Now the big cat dentists have provided the necessary help.

Emma Muradyan said: ‘We have made sure we have got rid of the acute pain that the tiger was feeling when eating.' 

Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment

During this active male’s lifetime roaming around the Russian Far East, something extraordinary happened, as the highly endangered population of Siberian or Amur tigers rose from less than 350 to more than 550. Pictures: Land of the Leopard


Now his jaw has been patched up, and Tikhon is released into a large fenced compound at the Tiger Rehabilitation Centre near Alekseyevka village.

Far from seeking a quiet life, wildlife experts say he is eagerly searching for a way back to the wild.

‘Tikhon still cannot surrender to captivity and constantly tests the fences for weakness,’ said the centre. ‘Moreover, he has a good appetite.’

He wants to get back to the wild. 

And during this active male’s lifetime roaming around the Russian Far East, something extraordinary happened. 

The highly endangered population of Siberian or Amur tigers rose from less than 350 to more than 550. 

The species is on the way to being saved and we can only guess at Tikhon’s role in this achievement. 

Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment


Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment
'Despite the age and health problems, Tikhon's strength and greatness have remained with him'. Pictures: Land of the Leopard Nature Reserve 


While he was regularly spotted on camera traps, this was his first encounter with humans except a decade ago when he was briefly caught to allow a tracker collar to be attached to him - although it later stopped working.

What is clear is this: Tikhon is not ready to stop now his teeth are fixed. 

‘Despite the age and health problems, his strength and greatness have remained with him,’ say the centre.

Decisions are now being made on Tikhon’s future as results are awaited from other tests.

His weight is still lower at 140 kilograms than when he was in his prime weighing over 160 kg - but the key question now is whether he will be able to hunt. 

Sergey Aramilev, director of the Tiger Centre, said that Tikhon 'was clearly starving’.

Pavel Fomenko, head of WWF Russia in Amur region, said: 'Only after assessing of all the information will  specialists make a decision whether to keep him in captivity or release him in the wild.’

Tiger king Tikhon who sought human help now wants to return to the wild after having dental treatment

King Tikhon the Amur tiger. Picture: Land of the Leopard 


Tikhon is only one of many big cats saved by the amazing work of the Tiger Rehabilitation Centre, which has issued an appeal for additional funding.  

‘You can help us by making a donation on our website or a transfer to our Sberbank card no. 4276500019455771.

‘All money will be spent for feeding the animals that are now kept at the Centre, for fixing the enclosures and facilities, and purchasing veterinary drugs.

‘Thank you for your contribution to the wildlife conservation.’

Comments (6)

Are humans natural predators? We certainly relate strongly to major predators like wolves, bears, lions & Tigers, don't we? "Omnivores", they tell us...

Well yes, Tikhon is a majestic predator, yet a member of a very closely managed wildlife population. These tigers are wild, but they are not 'on their own'. Even Pres. Putin has pitched in with the excellent work.

Photographs here show that he has lost the main equipment of a predator - his teeth in the front are gone, his canines are stumps, he's biting prey with his gums.

Worse, Siberian tigers are territorial, and the males in particular. When he was a young & inexperienced newly-independent tiger, Tikhon roamed constantly, always on the lookout for the older males who owned the territories he passed through. Eventually, he became strong & experienced enough to challenge one, maybe an old one past his prime ... and he took a territory by force of greater vitality, speed, and razor-sharp senses.

In the recent past, or perhaps some time ago, Tikhon himself had become that over-the-hill tiger. He was challenged, and soon realized it was time to yield his kingdom.

Tikhon has now been living homeless in the wild. He remembers how to live this way, because he did it in his youth. But now, his eyes & ears & nose, his muscles & joints & reflexes are not what they were, then. He is now a broken-down old tiger, trying to do what the gift of youth barely - and not always - supports, in the tiger-world.

If the facilities, staff & funding exist to shelter him (which is a factor...), is it really that bad?
Ted Clayton, Forks, Washington, USA
24/01/2019 04:10
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its amazing what those wonderful people have done to help this majestic tiger it strengthens my belief in humans .
william turner, United Kingdom
23/01/2019 03:04
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I do hope that he is released to the wild.
David B. Benson , Pullman, Washington state, USA
20/01/2019 09:54
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Its wonderful that they helped him, but at 15 years old he is too old to be let live in the wild. They should keep him, it takes a wile for him to understand he cant go back
Alex, Sweden
19/01/2019 06:37
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Tikhon went against every fibre in his body and asked humans for help to fix something he couldn't. Thankfully the right people found him and the guards who fired only warning shots are to be commended. If he is now actively looking for a way back to the wild, please give him the opportunity. He is a majestic tiger and has done so much for Siberian tigers. Let him carry on how he knows best. It would kill him faster to suddenly be kept captive.
Fiona Hardie, Scotland
17/01/2019 15:40
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This is wonderful news and I will just repeat my original comments in a large part with the update that given that Tikhon may have other ideas than retiring to a sanctuary I continue to wish him a long and happy continued life. He is quite the character and exhibits that true Russian resilience...:-). Thank you for helping him heal his tooth decay and jaw.

Thank you again also to everyone involved for understanding that nature has an inherent intelligence and instinct that we can communicate with. Tikhon and the Tigress last year are examples of this and the compassion and response by those involved also a demonstration of the intelligence and instinct we are capable of as humans.

I hope also that the border dogs mentioned in the original article are always remembered and that different possibilities to help them be less vulnerable to a hunting tiger be considered (no tether maybe is possible?)
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
16/01/2019 22:33
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1

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