Health check for Primorye tigers and leopards

Health check for Primorye tigers and leopards

26 September 2011

The Russian Academy of Sciences' permanent expedition for the observation of endangered and valuable species in Russia, along with leading veterinarians, has begun examining specific animals. This initiative is coordinated by the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution[s1] and is part of the Siberian Tiger, Amur Leopard, Snow Leopard, Polar Bear and White Whale monitoring programmes. This health screening project includes biometric measurements, weight, ultrasonic cardiography and an ultrasound scan; a biochemical analysis, a full blood count and a hormone blood test, analysis of antibodies to viral and bacterial infections, and a genetic test. These exams will be carried out on animals that have been tagged with the satellite tracking system. This research has been featured in many scientific publications.


Researchers from the Far Eastern Branch (FEB) of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have started tracking down Siberian tigers and Amur leopards to conduct similar examinations, according to Alexei Kostyr, a senior researcher at the FEB Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences[s2] .


The population of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards is on the decline, and the scientists pay special attention to their health. "They could suffer from mutations or various infections. Since 2006, the FEB of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the WCS have been tracking down the predators for a health screening," Kostyr said and added that in 2011, the researchers received permission to catch four Siberian tigers and four Amur leopards in south-western Primorye Territory.


"We use special loops to catch these cats. We put them on paths where the tigers and leopards are known to walk. As soon as the animal is trapped, we receive a radio signal and our men rush to the trap immediately," Kostyr said. He stressed that the researchers do their best to ensure that no harm is done to the animals as they are captured. The vets have a very limited time, while the animal is in a drug-induced sleep, to take samples of blood, skin, fur, and, where possible, to do an ultrasonic cardiography and an ultrasound scan. "We often invite vets from the United States and the UK to examine the tigers and leopards in Primorye," the scientist said. He added that this year the procedure will continue for two months until the cold temperatures settle in. It is not safe to trap the animals in extreme cold as they can be exposed to frostbite.