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WCS Russia News

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It has been nine months since the tigress named Zolushka (Cinderella), saved from starvation in the Russian taiga, was returned to the wild by the Wildlife Conservation Society Russia and Russian partners. Now, halfway through her first harsh, Russian winter, Zolushka appears to be not only surviving, but actively courted by the single male tiger roaming her territory.
Read more here

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The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia Program and the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik (SABZ) have jointly surveyed Amur tigers on SABZ territory using camera traps since 2006. On a recent routine camera trap check, it was discovered that one of the resident females, Varvara, has a new neighbor. This previously-unseen female was first photographed in November 2013. The territory she settled was once occupied by Varvara, as two years ago the tiger population in the reserve crashed and Varvara suddenly had an 800 km2 territory all to herself (which is approximately twice the normal home range size for a female Amur tiger). When Varvara gave birth to cubs (in 2012), her movements became more restricted as it likely proved impossible to patrol such a large territory and care for her young at the same time. Her prolonged absence apparently did not pass without notice, and hence the appearance of this new tigress. Read more

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02

ailing amur tiger

WCS Russia staff captured an incapacitated Amur tiger in the Amur region of the Russian Far East, but what ails the tiger is still a mystery. Sunday evening WCS staff members Nikolai and Alexander Rybin assisted in immobilizing the cat a second time to obtain x-rays and samples needed to determine whether diseases are affecting the tiger. Although 300-400 tigers live in Khabarovskii and Primorskii Provinces of the Russian Far East, tigers disappeared from the more western Amur Province more than 30 years ago. Yet WCS received the unusual request to assist the Russian government agency Inspection Tiger to track down and capture a wounded tiger reported in the region. WCS has the only specialists in the Russian Far East trained in the capture and immobilization of the big cats. Read more

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caught

In mid-November 2013, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s office in Vladivostok received a request from the Ministry of Natural Resources of Khabarovskii Province to assist in capturing a conflict tiger in the village of Sukpai. This tiger had been preying upon village dogs for weeks, and the locals there were too frightened to go outdoors at night. News of this tigers exploits were a regular feature on the local news in Khabarovskii Krai, raising concerns amongst many local people even beyond Sukpai.

The Rybin brothers, Aleksandr and Nikolai, are WCS’s capture specialists. They have extensive experience in the capture and immobilization of large predators (tigers, leopards, bears, etc.), and have assisted provincial and federal authorities in human-tiger conflict situations for years. They quickly collected the necessary equipment and headed to Khabarovsk. Read more here.

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Varya cub

In early September 2012, cubs were born to Varvara, one of the tigresses living in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve (SABR). We knew this because Varvara had been tracked using a GPS collar since October 2011 under a joint monitoring program conducted by SABR and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Based on her GPS locations, it was clear that Varvara confined her cubs to a small area in a remote corner of the reserve during the first two months following birth. Only when the cubs became stronger and began tasting meat did she begin taking them with her, and leading them to the ungulates she had killed. In early December, after the first snowfall, researchers were able to look at their tracks in the snow and determined that Varvara had three cubs. And every once in a while, male tracks were found near those of Varvara and the cubs. These belonged to Murzik, which meant he was the father. Read more here.

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Putin.Rybin.Close

Vladivostok September 25, 2013 — In  late August, the WCS Russia Tiger Conflict Team worked with a variety of partners to translocate two orphaned tiger cubs to a rehabilitation facility. The resulting events included a cameo by Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin himself. Read more here.

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GoldenvsSika

NEW YORK (September 23, 2013) A camera trap set out for Amur tigers in the Russian Far East photographed something far more rare: a golden eagle capturing a young sika deer.

The three images only cover a two-second period, but show an adult golden eagle clinging to the deer’s back. Its carcass was found two weeks later, just a few yards from the camera, initially puzzling researchers.The images first appeared in the September issue of the Journal of Raptor Research, and quickly spread throughout the internet.  This paper has received considerable attention in the media, including National Public Radio, National Geographic, Fox News, Scientific American, and New York Daily News, among many others.Authors include Linda Kerley of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Jonathan Slaght of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Read the WCS press release here.

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Fish Owl with Prey

New York, N.Y.  August 15, 2013 — A study spearheaded by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Minnesota has shown that the world's largest owl – and one of the rarest – is also a key indicator of the health of some of the last great primary forests of Russia's Far East.

The study found that Blakiston’s fish owl relies on old-growth forests along streams for both breeding and to support healthy populations of their favorite prey: salmon. The large trees provide breeding cavities for the enormous bird, which has a two-meter (six-foot) wingspan. And when these dead, massive trees topple into adjacent streams, they disrupt water flow, forcing the gushing river around, over, and under these new obstacles. The result is stream channel complexity: a combination of deep, slow-moving backwaters and shallow, fast-moving channels that provide important microhabitats critical to salmon in different developmental stages.

The study appears in the October issue of the journal Oryx, and is available here.

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Winter Ecology Cover

Winter Ecology of the Amur Tiger, first published in Russian in 1987, is finally available to an English-speaking audience. This classic Russian monograph contains results of the most extensive snow-tracking of Amur (or Siberian) tigers ever conducted. Russian biologists Anatolii Yudakov and Igor Nikolaev tracked Amur tigers on foot for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers through the snow in the southern Russian Far East from 1970-1973, collecting information on movements and behavior. This updated edition features a Foreward by Dr. Dale Miquelle (WCS Russia Director), explaining why this is one of the most important publications on Amur tigers written in the 20th century. This expanded, second edition includes more than 40 photographs and 26 tables and maps. All Proceeds (100%) from the sale of this book go directly towards the Wildlife Conservation Society's efforts to save Amur tigers in the wild. See it for sale at Amazon.com here.

 


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Hunting dog puppies in Russia

NEW REPORT IS THE FIRST PUBLISHED STUDY TO CONFIRM DISTEMPER AS A KILLER OF AMUR TIGERS

NEW YORK (August 14, 2013) – The first-ever published study to genetically characterize canine distemper virus (CDV) in tigers confirms that CDV acts as both a direct and indirect cause of death in the endangered big cats in the Russian Far East (RFE). The study was conducted by health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo (WCS), the Primorskaya State Agricultural Academy, Sikhote-Alin Reserve in Russia,Ussurisk Department of Health Services and Terney County Veterinary Services in Russia, and the Albert Einstein College (AEC) of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Over the course of the investigation, scientists from WCS and the Russian veterinary institutions performed a series of tests on tissues from five adult tigers that died or were euthanized in 2001, 2004, and 2010after exhibiting abnormal neurologic signs. Microscopic examination using routine and special immunologic staining of brain tissue (available from two of the tigers) were highly suggestive of CDV infection. PCR, a highly sensitive and specific test, was used to genetically confirm that CDV was the cause of disease and death in these two tigers and had infected a third. It was also noted that during the study, three tiger cubs died as a result of abandonment by their CDV-infected mother.

The study, Canine Distemper Virus: An emerging disease in wild endangered Amur tigers, appears online in the current edition of mBIO (http://bit.ly/mbiotip0813b). 

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BBC cameratraps a Siberian Tiger

The first installment of Operation Snow Tiger, which features the work of WCS Russia as well as research being conducted by the Russian Academy of Sciences Severtsov Institute, was featured on BBC June 9th and June 16th, 2013 in the United Kingdom. The program will be aired shortly in the USA by Discovery Channel, but dates have not yet been set.

These programs track the process of saving a litter of three Siberian tiger cubs in late November and early December 2012 after their mother was apparently poached.   The film also features some of the first (and best!) video footage of tigers in Ussuriskii and Sikhote-Alinskii Zapovedniks (two of the most important tiger reserves in Russia), with some striking images of a young tigress in WCS’s long-term study area (who repeatedly visited a site where camera traps were positioned). 

Saving a Siberian Tiger Cub For a preview of the documentary click here.

These films do a nice job portraying the difficulties of trying to save tigers in the inhospitable environment of the Russian Far East, and demonstrates how much has been accomplished by WCS in our efforts to secure a future for tigers in Russia.

If you would like to support our efforts specifically to save the Siberian tiger, send us a note here and we will provide details.

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tigerA tiger captured on February 28th died 5 days later, suffering from peritonitis and impaction of the stomach. The animal, apparently in bad condition, consumed the hide of a wild boar (possibly remains from a hunter kill) and impaction of the hair in the stomach prevented normal digestive processes, leading to peritonitis and eventually death.

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A researcher at the musk deer capture facility

Dasha Maksimova, a graduate student at the Pacific Institute of Geography in Vladivostok, recently received a prestigious 2012 WCS Research Fellowship for her project “Threats to musk deer population persistence in the Russian Far East”, with work focused in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik, where our Siberian Tiger Project is based. Musk deer, which are famous for having fangs and a musk gland highly prized on black markets, are found throughout much of the higher elevations of East Asia. The project aims to identify the reasons of the sharp decline of Musk deer numbers in Russia happened in the last decade.
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tiger cub Last fall, in the frigid, snowy forests of the Russian Far East, three wild tiger cubs lost their most important ally: their mother. For us, the story began on Nov. 29 with a phone call to me at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) office in Vladivostok from Vladimir Vasiliev, the head of the regional wildlife department, Okhotnazor. He requested our assistance in capturing the four-month-old cubs, which had created a stir near a small village by attempting to make a meal out of a farmer’s dog.

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lynx cameratrap WCS Russia

Recently, one of our camera traps in southwest Primorye captured a Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). This might seem like nothing particularly unusual, but this is noteworthy because this is the first time in the ten years of camera trapping in southwest Primorye that this species has been documented. And not just by us—our colleagues who have also been working with camera traps in other parts of southern Primorye, have confirmed that this is the first lynx photograph they’ve seen as well. And there it is, walking on a game trail usually walked by tigers and leopards, as though nothing were out of the ordinary. 

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lynx cameratrap WCS Russia

At the end of November 2011, a one day training workshop took place at Sikhote-Alin State Nature Biosphere Reserve in Primorski Krai (Russian Far East),  to train inspectors in judicial procedure. The training will hopefully increase the rate of successful prosecutions that can be made against poachers who are apprehended inside the protected area. The training forms part of a collaboration between four important protected areas in Primorski Krai, the WCS,  USAID, Phoenix Fund and Zoological Society of London.  Please download the full text here

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lynx cameratrap WCS RussiaHealth experts from Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, Primorskaya State Agricultural Academy, and Moscow Zoo uncover how distemper may be affecting Siberian (Amur) tigers.

A team of Russian veterinary colleagues and health experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo are collaborating to understand how distemper – a virus afflicting domestic dogs and many wildlife species – may be a growing threat to Siberian (Amur) tigers.

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 On June 8-10th a three-day training workshop on the MIST program took place at Sikhote-Alin State Nature Biosphere Reserve in Primorsky Krai (Russian Far East), to train inspectors in the use of the latest techniques in wildlife protection. The training forms part of a collaboration between four State Nature Reserves/National Parks containing important tiger habitat - Lazovsky, Kedrovaya Pad, Sikhote-Alin and Zov Tigra - the WCS,  USAID, Phoenix Fund and Zoological Society of London. The goal of this collaboration is to build capacity with protected area officials to combat poaching of the Amur tiger and to restore their populations. Read the full version of press release here.

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Amur tiger camera trapThe use of digital Panthera camera traps, new to us this year, has opened new possibilities for our work studying tigers and leopards in SW Primorye. Since using these new cameras we have documented tiger and leopard cubs, and recorded the continued survival of a known leopard. Furthermore, with sensitive motion detectors and fast camera speeds we have fantastic photos of a variety of fast-moving animals rarely captured before; such as the Siberian weasel, Far-Eastern wildcat, Manchurian hare and an array of bird species.

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WCS’s Far Eastern leopard project has documented what is likely the newest addition to the highly endangered population of Far Eastern leopards inhabiting Southwest Primorsky Krai: a small leopard cub, thought to have been born at the end of December. Using digital Panthera camera traps, in February WCS specialists obtained a photograph of the two-month old and its mother leaving and re-entering a cave, where the cub would have spent its early days protected from the harsh winter weather and predators.

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Since 2002 WCS has been using camera trap monitoring in an attempt to understand the dynamics of the world’s last remaining Far Eastern leopards, which are hanging on only in Southwest Primorye, a sliver of land on the Russian-Chinese border. Just as interesting as what is happening to the leopard population in this region, however, is another question – What is going on with tigers??

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The Year of the Tiger – 2010 – was far from the most fortunate for Siberian tigers, at least for some. Within the first 5 months of the year, the Siberian Tiger Project lost 3 of our collared individuals, and then at the end of May, we tragically lost the last one – the tigress Galya. This death shocked the Project’s entire team – all these events were too sudden and unexpected. We had followed Galya for 9 years, practically from birth. Collecting information about Galya’s life bit by bit, we monitored how she carved out her own home range and raised her first litter of cubs. Over many years, she had been a vital member of our team. And now she was gone...

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 On a cold but bright and sunny day on 28th of January, tracks left in the snow by a female leopard lead us to the bottom of a steep slope and a clump of deer hair. We looked above us and saw a drag-line up the slope, the leopard had evidently pulled the deer kill up the rock-face. As we ungracefully scrambled up the snow-covered slope, grappling hold every tree to pull ourselves up, we admired the strength of the leopard required to pull a dead weight of at least 45 kg. After twenty metres we came to a rocky outcrop secluded by a fallen tree, an ideal spot for the leopard to hide the kill from scavengers.

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 With only 25-30 Far Eastern leopards left in the wild, it is a rare treat to capture two leopards in one photo (see left). As our automated camera traps use 35mm film, the quality of this photo is far from perfect, but it looks like a mother and her one-year old cub.  If so, this is proof that the Far Eastern leopard population is reproducing in our study area. Evidence from our eight-year camera trapping survey in the region, moreover, demonstrates that the leopard population in our study area remains stable.  

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From March through May 2010 WCS conducted a survey of tigers using camera trapping in Khabarovsk Province of the Russian Far East in a portion of the Khor River Basin -- the one of 16 monitoring units where annual assessments of trends in the population of Amur tigers, their prey and their habitat have been ongoing since 1997. The goal is developing statistically robust methods for assessing the Amur tiger population. Currently, tiger numbers in Russia are estimated through winter surveys of tracks in the snow, a method that largely relies on expert judgment to interpret results. Camera-trapping allows us to make more statistically defensible estimates of tiger numbers, which we are then comparing with results of winter track surveys.

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Disease as a new threat to Amur TigersOn June 1, 2010, at approximately 7:45 am, “Galia,” the last study animal of the Siberian Tiger Project, was shot within the village of Terney because of the dangers she posed to local citizens. For the many people who knew of Galia, who had been monitored by the Siberian Tiger Project for the past 10 years, this will come as a shock. This death marks the fourth radio-collared animal to die in the past 10 months either of natural causes, or due to conflict with humans. Presently, we are working under the hypothesis that all deaths may have been disease-related.

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The threats to the survival of the world’s last 30 Far Eastern leopards are unfortunately numerous. Leopards and their prey fall victim to poachers, the leopard’s habitat is under pressure from logging and development projects and – as if this isn’t enough – the animals are slowly losing their home due to frequent fires… In response, WCS and the Slavyanka Municipality are conducting an exciting project that could become a turning point in the fight against fires in Southwest Primorye.

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 With a new radio-collar and a new litter of cubs, eight-year-old tigress Galia has been keeping very busy this spring, to the delight of WCS researchers and staff. With Galia's radio-collar batteries fading, in March Siberian Tiger Project specialists set out by helicopter to provide her a new collar. Under observation since 2002, Galia is one of WCS's longest-studied tigers, and as such she is not only a source of a wealth of important information needed for tiger conservation, but is also very dear to our hearts. And just two weeks ago, Galia gave us another reason to hope for the future of tigers -- she gave birth to three cubs, her first new litter in nearly four years. 

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Tiger report card WCS RussiaA new tiger report card released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reveals how the iconic big cats are faring in eight key landscapes spanning nine Asian countries. “In this Year of the Tiger, the best way we can celebrate these iconic big cats is by giving them a future,” said WCS President and CEO Steven E. Sanderson. Download the full Tiger Report Card to learn more about how you can support WCS efforts to conserve tigers in Russia.

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Over 100 Russian and international biologists and conservationists gathered for an international conference co-hosted by WCS, “The Amur Tiger in Northeast Asia: Planning for the 21st Century”, held in Vladivostok from March 16-18. The goals of the conference were two-fold: to report the most recent scientific information on Amur tiger ecology, and to discuss key conservation challenges and solutions for the coming century. Most importantly, the meeting provided an opportunity to review and critique the newly drafted revision of the Russian Federal Tiger Conservation Strategy, which must be ready for implementation prior to the International Tiger Summit to be held in Vladivostok in September 2010.

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There probably isn’t a single person in Southern Primorye who hasn’t felt some degree of discomfort due to the great volume of snow that fell this winter. The nuisances brought about by the December snowfall in Vladivostok are still fresh in people’s memories. We all wished for city administration to somehow improve our level of comfort, and no one wanted to leave their house unless absolutely necessary, as going outside was not only uncomfortable, but also very dangerous. With that in mind, imagine what it must be like in the forest, where there are no snowplows and no clean up crew. How must it feel for the forest dwellers?

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09

Amur tiger AnyaIn the course of our ongoing scientific research, on November 7, 2009 we have captured two 1.5-year old tiger sub-adults at the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, whom we named Anya and Valera- a brother and sister. Anya received a GPS collar, while her brother was fitted with a regular radiocollar.

At this time, Valera still lives in the same region of the Reserve where he was captured. Apparently, he still follows his mother from time to time. As for Anya… on February 11, 2010 during a regularly scheduled flight to obtain locations for our tigers, it was discovered that Anya’s collar had switched to mortality mode.

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Amur leopard on the snowWinter is a season which divides people into different categories. Most people fall into two categories: either those who despise the cold and look for excuses to stay in warm spaces while wishing for summer’s quick return, or those who find joy in the cold season, participate in various winter sports, yet still dream of summer’s warmth.  But there is a third, small group of people, for whom winter is the most active and favorable time to work, a time when many exciting things happen. These people are called field workers.

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On February 9th 2010, the head of Primorsky Krai’s Hunting Control Department notified us of a tiger sighted on a hunting lease near Alekseevka, a village of the Nadezhdinsky district in Primorski Krai. The animal was behaving oddly - most wild tigers, when confronted with people, will either run away, or if cornered, exhibit aggression. But this animal neither ran away or towards people, as if people long ago failed to interest him. As a WCS employee with extensive capture experience, I was asked to assist by immobilizing and examining this strange tiger.

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Dear friends! Please find below an overview of new articles that have been recently added to our website. You can find the following materials in menu Publications”:
Good Bye Olga” - about life and fate of the first radiocollared Amur (Siberian) tiger, which have been studied by the staff of Siberian Tiger Project (WCS/SABZ) for 13 years;
Striped Victim- article from “Zolotoy Rog” newspaper about tigress hit by a vehicle on the road from Razdolnoye village to Khasan in Primorye; and many others...

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In November 2009, our staff completed the joint WCS/SABZ Siberian Tiger Project fall capture season in the Sikhote-Alin Reserve. A very important method of studying the tiger population is radiotelemetry, i.e. radiotracking of tigers fitted with radiocollars. This method has been used at the Sikhote-Alin Reserve for a long time, and has provided us with practical conservation results for this rare predator. Tigers with radiocollars are special because they give us necessary information, based on which we develop tiger conservation plans. These individuals help us carry out an important mission, which we hope will have positive effects on future tiger generations, and on human attitudes towards this magnificent animal.

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The wild population of tigers, estimated at 100,000 tigers around 1900, has declined to as few as 3,000 individuals today, with four of the eight originally designated tiger subspecies having become extinct in the wild. While numbers plummeted almost everywhere else in the vast range of tigers in Asia, the Russian population showed a remarkable opposite trend. At the start of the 1940’s the Amur tiger had been almost hunted to extinction in Russia with as few as 30 animals remaining. At this critical juncture the situation changed for the better when in 1947 Russia became the first country in the world to ban hunting of tigers. Hunting of the main prey species – ungulates – became restricted by an annual quota system. As a result of effective law enforcement, poaching of tigers became relatively rare and the Amur tiger made a remarkable recovery. In 2005 a full-range survey in Russia showed that the population had recovered to between 428 and 502 individuals (up from 415 to 476 in the previous 1996 count). Moreover, approximately 95% of the Amur tigers are part of one contiguous population, probably the largest in the world.

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Amur Tiger Cameratrap Photo by WCS Monitoring 2009The Siberian Tiger Monitoring Program has released results indicating that Siberian tiger numbers are falling in the Russian Far East, primarily due to poaching and habitat degradation. The results can hopefully be used to improve conditions for tigers in Russia. Official estimates of Siberian tiger numbers in Russia come from full range surveys conducted only once every 10 years. The last such survey, conducted in 2005, revealed that 428-502 tigers resided in Russia. Yearly monitoring program was designed to act as an “early warning device” in case changes in the status of tigers occurred between full range surveys. In 2009, only 56 adult tigers were counted on 16 “early warning” survey units (in contrast to 115 tigers counted in 2005 at the same spots), representing a 40% decrease from the 12-year average.

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03

For the first time ever, tiger numbers in the Russian Far East were estimated using remote cameras set in the forest to “capture” tigers automatically on film. Because the stripes of each tiger are unique, it is possible to differentiate and count tigers based on photographic evidence. Camera-trapping studies conducted in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik (SABZ) from 2006 to 2008 provided the basis for providing the most statistically robust estimates of tiger densities ever derived for the Amur tiger.

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02

We often hear the statistics of how many tigers are lost to poachers each year. But what the statistics don’t tell us is the story behind each event, the life that each tiger lived up to that tragic moment when a poacher ended its life. Nor do we hear of the impact of that loss on those people who live close to and care most about these magnificent animals.  In 2001, Svetlana Soutyrina came to the village of Terney (base for the Siberian Tiger Project) from Siberia, and was instantly captivated by the region and its tigers. Over that past 8 years, she has worked for the WCS Siberian Tiger Project, and dedicated her life to the tigers she studies each day. Below is her personal account of the life and death of one such animal.

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This past winter the village of Terney made international news as the “epicenter” of record snowfalls. Nearly 2 meters of snow fell in a span of three days, paralyzing and isolating Terney and nearby villages for days and weeks. Not surprisingly, the deep snows were catastrophic for many wildlife species as well. Our long-term research project on tigers – The Siberian Tiger Project - is supposed to go on, rain, snow, or shine. But as you can imagine, when serious weather hits, just surviving can be difficult, and conducting research can be nearly impossible. This spring, another epic weather phenomenon visited Terney. Below, Dale Miquelle, Director of the WCS Russia Program, describes his three days during record rainfalls in the village of Terney. 

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05

From May 25th through 31st, 2009, Chinese and international specialists gathered in Changchun City (capital of Jilin Province) to plan for a future in northern China that includes tigers. Such a meeting would have seemed absurd 150 years ago, when Siberian tigers were abundant and considered a pest in the forests of northern China – what was then known as Manchuria. (Click on article title to read more.)

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11

At the end of April WCS staff headed out for a trip to the Chin San Model Hunting Lease, where WCS is providing financial and technical support to help local people achieve a new level of wildlife management. We hope that our work with Chin San will demonstrate that with modest investment, community-based hunting leases can increase ungulate numbers, protect rare species (particularly Amur tigers), and develop economic activities that will provide long-term income.

Read our trip report to learn more about our work in Chin San through pictures.

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Dozens of fires are burning throughout Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard habitat in southwestern Primorsky Krai. Thanks to good snow cover through March, the spring fire season got started later than usual, but is now in full swing, bringing some of the worst fires seen in years, according to local specialists. WCS Russia is working with local government and other stakeholders in order to find a solution to this problem.

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08

This winter and spring Siberian Tiger Project staff continue to monitor radio-collared tigers in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, which allows us to obtain important information about how tigers live. For the past 6 years we have been tracking two eight-year-old tigresses, “Vera” and “Galya,” who live in the southeastern portion of the reserve. Vera and Galya are neighbors: their home ranges are right next to each other. But each tigress knows the other’s territory, and they are respectful of each other, and do not trespass.

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"This news update finds us in improving weather conditions, deteriorating road conditions, and the heart of our camera-trapping effort..."

Our field crew based in SW Primorsky Krai, Russia, reports on the latest, including camera-trapping work and our findings from snow-tracking of tigers and leopards in the winter of 2008-09. (Click news headline to read more.) 

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The body of a Far Eastern leopard was found on the territory of the Nezhinskoye Hunting Lease in Southwestern Primorsky Krai on February 15. A necropsy was performed on the leopard, a female pregnant with one cub, but results pertaining to cause of death were inconclusive. WCS is working with partners to help ensure needed samples are taken in order to further analyze the situation.

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On the night of January 27, specialists from Primorsky Krai's Wildlife Management Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society responded to a call about an abandoned tiger cub found near a village in southern Primorsky Krai. Dogs had chased the cub into a small space between two heating pipes. The cub was brought to a rehabilitation center in the city of Ussuriisk, where the next day WCS staff immobilized the animal and conducted a medical exam. The tiger turned out to be a female, 3-4 months of age.

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In early January nearly 2 meters of snow fell in parts of northern Primorsky Krai, posing a significant risk to ungulates, which have difficulty finding food and moving about in such conditions, and also become easy targets for poachers. In order to help relieve the situation, WCS and the Russia Program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are providing small, emergency grants to wildlife management organizations and nature reserves in northern Primorye, allowing them to undertake activities to help ungulates survive the winter.

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In December of 2008 Siberian Tiger Project specialists concluded the field portion of a nearly 3-year long project to camera-trap the Amur tiger in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, Primorsky Krai, Russian Far East. Scientists obtained hundreds of photos of 26 different individual tigers living in the 4,000 sq. km reserve. This project, led by graduate students Svetlana Soutyrina and Meghan Riley, represents the first attempt to use camera-traps to monitor the Amur tiger.

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Siberian Tiger Project specialists Nikolai Rybin and Ivan Seryodkin joined specialists from the Primorsky Krai Wildlife Management Department to help resolve the winter season’s first tiger-human conflict situation, involving a tigress killing dogs in a small village in western Primorye.

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On Saturday, October 18, scientists working in southwestern Primorsky Krai, Russia under a joint project of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Institute of Biology and Soils (IBS), Russian Academy of Sciences Far Eastern Branch captured an adult female Far Eastern (Amur) leopard. The Far Eastern leopard, Panthera pardus orientalis, is perhaps the world’s most endangered big cat, with an estimated 25-40 individuals inhabiting a narrow strip of land along the Russian-Chinese border in the far southeastern corner of the Russian Federation.

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Each fall marks the annual celebration of “Tiger Day” in cities and villages throughout tiger range in Russia, giving participants the opportunity to commemorate one of the Far East’s most vibrant living symbols, and to learn about tigers and threats to their conservation. In mid-September hundreds of children and adults attended the festivities in the small village of Terney, base for the Siberian Tiger Project and located in the heart of Amur tiger range. Tiger Day in Vladivostok attracted the attention of national and international celebrities.

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Just over a year after its opening, WCS’s Sikhote-AlinResearchCenter is already attracting young wildlife biologists from throughout Russia and from abroad. Currently 6 graduate students (5 Russian, 1 Canadian) are living at the Center, conducting research and participating in Siberian Tiger Project field activities.



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On June 17th  WCS staff wrapped up the Siberian Tiger Project’s 16th annual spring capture season, having radio-collared two young male Amur tigers, the cubs of seven-year-old radio-collared tigress Galya. Although the cubs “Ivan” and “Misha” were nearly two years old and larger than their mother, they had not yet begun dispersing from their natal home range when captured in May along the coast of the Sea of Japan

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Late winter-early spring 2008 represented the sixth consecutive year in which WCS and the Institute of Biology and Soils, RussianAcademy of Sciences conducted camera trapping surveys to monitor Far Eastern leopards at the northern end of their range in Russia, in some of the best remaining leopard habitat. Eight different leopards, including 3 males, 2 females, one cub, and 2 unidentified individuals, were photographed using camera traps between late February and early May.

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