Svetlana Sutyrina shares details of tiger life

Svetlana Sutyrina shares details of tiger life

11 July 2014

The Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve is a habitat for the Amur tiger, one of the world’s biggest and most beautiful wild cats. It is also a place where the Tiger student environmental team, established by the Amur Tiger Centre autonomous non-profit organisation, is currently working. The team of 25 students is improving the Cape Severny ecological trail. Svetlana Sutyrina, the reserve’s deputy director for research work, shared how the striped cats are feeling there and whether it is possible to spot them on the trail.


- Ms Sutyrina, how many tigers are living on the nature reserve’s territory?


- According to the latest photo survey, there are about 20 tigers. This is a substantial number. The thing is that each tiger inhabits a large territory. On average, a female tiger needs 400 sq km, and a male tiger needs up to 1,000 sq km. For instance, a female tiger named Varvara inhabits the whole of the nature reserve’s coastal area. In September 2012, she gave birth to two male cubs, who have grown up by now and have possibly left the reserve’s territory and will further spread the species.


- Are female tigers eager to leave their mothers as well?


- With females, it is a bit different. If a mother has a large territory, she cedes part of it to her daughter. But this is not always the case, as it is not possible to share a piece of land forever, and so the tiger leaves to look for another area. Male tigers can travel a thousand or even two thousand kilometres away from their parents, while females prefer to stay a bit closer to them.  


- Can one spot a tiger at the Blagodatnoye area?


- At the Blagodatnoye natural area – that’s where the student team is working – you can see both Varvara and Murzik, who has become very popular here and has been photographed by our trail cameras quite often. Until 2007, we had called him simply Tiger No 27 – but after my first personal encounter with the animal, I thought he should get a name. We have many photographs of this tiger received from our camera traps. We installed digital ones, and he did not like them. Every tiger has its own personality, habits and traits.


- Are any of the female tigers going to have a litter this year?


- We expect a sort of Santa Barbara here, with two young male tigers called Dzhigit and Murzik and two young female tigers – Mira, who is old enough to give birth, and Varvara, whom her two grown up cubs left recently and who is ready to be a mother again. It will be interesting to see how they pair off.


- How do you monitor the tigers? Are there many trail cameras installed?


- Until recently, we had only 10 trail cameras. This year, due to the assistance from a number of foundations, we purchased 80 cameras, though we need about 180. Installing a trail camera is effort-consuming: It requires finding the place a tiger visits most often. If such a location is found, you have good chances of getting splendid and unique shots of the wild cats’ life.