The tigress Cinderella returns to her natural habitat

The tigress Cinderella returns to her natural habitat

14 May 2013

The tigress Cinderella from the Rehabilitation Centre for Rare Animals located near the village of Alexeyevka, Primorye Territory, has been released into nature. Her rehabilitation was conducted under the Programme for Studying the Amur Tiger in the Russian Far East, which has been implemented by a standing expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences specialising in the study of animals in the Russian Red Book and other important Russian fauna.


An orphaned Amur tigress aged five or six months in an extreme state of emaciation was found in the vicinity of the village of Prokhorovka, Ussury District, Primorye Territory, in February 2012. After a period of necessary treatment, the tigress, now known as Cinderella, was handed over to the Rehabilitation Centre for Rare Animals (Alexeyevka, Primorye Territory), a facility built by the Tiger Special Inspectorate and the Severtsov Institute for Environmental and Evolution Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, with financial support from the Russian Geographical Society.


These two organizations devised a special rehabilitation programme for Cinderella. Her physical condition and socialisation were entrusted to specialists at the Rehabilitation Centre, where she spent one year acquiring hunting and tracking skills. (For over six months, the tigress preyed on deer, wild pigs and raccoon dogs in a vast enclosure.) Any contact with humans was forbidden and her behaviour was monitored remotely by surveillance cameras.


Cinderella's upkeep was provided by the Severtsov Institute for Environmental and Evolutionary Problems, the Tiger Special Inspectorate, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Phoenix Environmental Fund.


Prepared for her return to nature, the tigress was in a good physical condition, weighing 94 kilos, which is normal for her age. Cinderella is a good tracker and hunter; she prefers natural prey like deer or wild pigs and avoids humans. Before her release, specialists examined her teeth, took her temperature and performed other necessary tests to ascertain her state of health.


In coordination with federal and regional authorities, the Bastak natural reserve in the Jewish Autonomous Area was selected as Cinderella's new habitat. Specialists from the natural reserve and the standing expedition of the Academy of Sciences examined the location where she would be released, and spotted footprints of a male tiger (he was nicknamed Wanderer). The local food potential was determined to be sufficient for the tigress.


In the morning of May 9, a trailer-towing truck with the tigress on board arrived to meet the heads of local authorities and reserve inspectors, after covering 1,000 kilometers in 18 hours. Her cage was transferred to a cross-country vehicle which took the tigress with her escort of environmentalists and scientists to the upper reaches of the Bastak River. After travelling for two hours across rough terrain, the vehicle stopped at the planned release location. The accompanying team tuned the remote unlocking mechanism of the cage, checked the radar equipment, and gave additional instructions to those present. This done, the cage door was opened. Three seconds later, the animal leaped out into the open and disappeared into the wood.


Specialists from the Severtsov Institute for Environmental and Evolutionary Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Tiger Special Inspectorate, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) monitor the tigress' movements with the help of a satellite radio beacon. The data arrive regularly, which is a sign that Cinderella is exploring the area. Her movements are limited to a small (several kilometres) strip of territory in the alluvial plain of the Bastak River at a considerable distance from the nearest populated localities. Scientists hope that a new tiger family will be started here and that the population of Amur tigers that used to inhabit this locality will be revived.


Today, with a mere 3,200 tigers living in natural habitats around the world (about 400 in Russia), the life of each animal is of tremendous value for the preservation of the species in nature.