The Russian Far East is home to some of the world’s rarest and unique species, including Amur tigers and leopards, Kamchatka brown bears, and Blakiston’s fish owls. The Wildlife Conservation Society focuses on these key species as a means to achieve biodiversity conservation and protect critical habitats throughout this region. We use science as a foundation for designing and implementing effective conservation plans.
|RETURNING TIGERS TO THE PRIAMUR: EPISODE 4 - KUZYA, BORIS, ILONA, USTIN, AND SVETLANA: THEIR FIRST MONTH BACK IN THE WILD July 2014 |
The process of immobilization and the trauma of the long trip to the Primamur (as described in Episodes 2 and 3) was really the easy part for our five young tigers just released into Amurskaya Oblast and the Jewish Autonomous Region. The real challenge for these tigers would come after release, and the questions were many. Will they acclimate to their new surroundings? Will they successfully learn to hunt in the wild? Where will they decide is “home” and how will they demark their home ranges? Will males and females stay together, or find separate non-overlapping home ranges? Therefore, in many ways, the first month of live in the wild represents the most critical period for these young, inexperienced tigers. Read more here
|RETURNING TIGERS TO THE PRIAMUR: EPISODE 3 - RELEASING TIGERS IN THE JEWISH AUTONOMOUS OBLAST July 2014 |
Just as the three young tigers named Ilona, Boris, and Kuzma were realizing new-found freedom in Amurskaya Oblast, a second convoy with two more cubs was preparing to leave the Alekseevka facility in Primorskii Krai. Ustin and Svetlana, a male and female found separately as abandoned cubs in Primorskii Krai in the 2012-2013 winter, were now well prepared for their release in the Zhuravlinii (“Crane”) Wildlife Refuge in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO). Read more here
|RETURNING TIGERS TO THE PRIAMUR: EPISODE 2 - THREE TIGERS RELEASED INTO THE WILD IN AMURSKAYA OBLAST June 2014 |
In our last update we described how three tigers cubs, named Ilona, Boris, and Kuzya, had been immobilized at the Alekseevka Rehabilitation Center in Primorskii Krai and sent on the long journey to the Amurskaya Oblast, a region that had not seen resident tigers for decades. The tigers were transported through Primorskii Krai, Khabarovskii Krai, and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in custom-built cages on trailers. Read more here
|CINDERELLA THE TIGRESS: THE FAIRY TALE CONTINUES June 2014 |
We recently collected images from camera traps placed in Bastak Nature Reserve in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and were thrilled to see our old friend Zolushka (“Cinderella” in Russian). As was mentioned in previous updates, Zolushka was rescued as an orphaned cub in Primorye two years ago, and was released back into the wild in Bastak after a year-long rehabilitation period. Our colleagues and Bastak staff work monitor camera traps regularly—this involves installation and periodic checks to replace batteries and download photographs. This frequent monitoring allows us to receive important and timely data on the status of different animals in the reserve—first and foremost the young tigress Zolushka. She looks healthy and well-fed, meaning that she survived the most difficult season of the year for animals—winter. Read more here
|MUSK DEER RESEARCH PROGRAM May 2014 |
The Far-eastern musk deer is a species in decline, primarily due to poaching and unsustainable harvest of the valuable musk gland (used in the perfume industry) found only in males. Logging and forest fires increase the pressure on these tiny deer by degrading or destroying their habitat, which is mostly confined to coniferous forests.
Our program to study and develop management recommendations for musk deer began in 2010 as a joint effort with the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve (where the study is based) the Pacific Institute of Geography, the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution.
Our study area is focused in the northeastern portion of Sikhote-Alin Reserve. Data on musk deer ecology are collected using a variety of methods, including radio tracking, snow tracking, and camera trapping. Six animals have been tagged with collars and monitored daily since 2010; at present we are monitoring three individuals. Radio tracking allows us to understand home range sizes required by musk deer, habitat requirements, daily travel distances, behavior, food habits, and daily activity patterns. Read more here
|RETURNING TIGERS TO THE PRIAMUR: EPISODE 1 - THE JOURNEY BEGINS May 2014 |
On May 19th, the next step in returning tigers to the Pri-Amur Region of Russia began. Specialists from Wildlife Conservation Society, Special Tiger Inspection and Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution were able to dart the teenage tigress Ilona in her expansive enclosure at the Inspection Tiger’s Rehabilitation Center in Alekseevka, Primorskii Krai. Within an hour, after blood samples and measurements were taken, and a radiocollar was put on, she was placed in her transport cage in preparation for the long trip west. Early the nextmorning, two brothers – Kuzya and Boris – of similar age but unrelated to Ilona, were also darted, with each placed in their private shipping crate ready for about 1300 km trip to Amur Oblast and Zhelundinskii Wildlife Refuge, their new intended home.
Read more here
|CINDERELLA IS STILL SEARCHING FOR HER PRINCE May 2014 |
In the beginning of March Dale Miquelle, Director of Wildlife Conservation Society, and Yuri Petrunenko, scientist at the Pacific Institute of Geography, Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, traveled to Bastak Reserve in the Jewish Autonomous Region to continue providing assistance in the monitoring of Zolushka, the tigress released in Bastak year ago
All information that we have been able to obtain to date suggests that Zolushka appears to be in good health, and is thriving in Bastak. She continues to focus her activities in upper Bastak River, but she appeared near the apiary in the central part of Bastak Reserve for the first time in March 2014– an area rich in wild boar. The fact that the male tiger has been in direct contact with Zolushka, and that there may have been some mating behavior, is extremely good news. Although Zolushka is still a bit young to produce cubs (the earliest we have noted for Amur tigers in the wild is 3 years, and Zolushka is about 2.5 years old), but establishing a relationship with this male is extremely important and represents the first step for reproduction to occur in Bastak. Read more here
|STUDYING INFECTIOUS DISEASE AS A CONSERVATION THREAT TO AMUR TIGERS April 2014 |
Data in recent years has confirmed that infectious diseases can seriously impact the populations of rare animal species, including Amur tigers. As previously reported, Amur tigers were recently exposed to canine distemper virus, a disease common among wild and domestic animals (including dogs) that share habitat with tigers. Therefore, tiger population health depends on controlling the spread of infectious diseases in wild and domesticated animals. To elucidate the role that wild and domestic animals play in the possible infection of Amur tigers and other carnivores, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Russia Program has undertaken a study involving Russian and foreign veterinarians and zoologists. Read more here
|WILL ZOLUSHKA MEET HER PRINCE? February 2014 |
Read more here
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.
|VARVARA’S NEW NEIGHBOR February 2014 |
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
|AILING AMUR TIGER STILL A MYSTERY February 2014 |
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
|CONFLICT TIGER NEAR THE VILLAGE OF SUKPAI CAUGHT AND SENT TO UTYOS REHABILITATION CENTER December 2013 |
See our NEWS ARCHIVE for more information from the fields.
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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