New monitoring data: Pavlik explores Amur Region while Yelena opens camera trap

New monitoring data: Pavlik explores Amur Region while Yelena opens camera trap

20 May 2020

Researchers who monitor the Amur tigers Pavlik and Yelena in the Amur Region have received new data on their movements, the Amur Tiger Centre reported.


The monitoring data has revealed that the tigress Yelena walked all the way to a federal motorway and "checked" a local camera trap, while her brother Pavlik continues exploring the Amur Region. Both Pavlik and Yelena are avoiding contact with humans and keeping a safe distance from residential areas.


The stable functioning of the GPS tracking collars attached to the animals prior to their release into the wild allows experts to monitor the tigers’ movements in real time and plan field work in the areas where they wander. The collars make it possible for researchers to receive important information about the tigers' prey and gather biomaterials for further analysis.


Constant GPS monitoring also helps to minimise the probability of hostile encounters between reintroduced tigers.


"Our task was to check the locations where Yelena was tracked near the Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean oil pipeline's pump station and then, when heading south, where she crossed the pipeline and the Chita-Khabarovsk motorway. Our team set out to inspect the sites and search for Yelena's tracks. On an unsurfaced road along the pipeline, they spotted paw prints that resembled the ones of Yelena. The tigress walked there in the early hours, some 300 metres away from the oil pump station, but did not approach it. Then she headed south of the pipeline, went several hundred metres, and reached the motorway. For a while, she stood in the shrubs on a high hill, with a perfect view of both sides of the motorway. At midnight, she crossed the road and into the woods and in 12 hours, arrived at the reserve. Interestingly, Yelena crossed the Trans-Siberian Railway tracks in the same place she had done it during her previous walks. Overall, we can see that the tigress so far feels comfortable in the reserve; she has everything for a happy life – a protected territory and plenty of hoofed animals," said Vyacheslav Kastrikin, deputy director for research at the Khingan Nature Reserve.


Recently, Yelena took an interest in photomonitoring – particularly, in one of the camera traps installed by researchers in her hunting grounds to track her movements. The tigress managed to open the camera trap with her claws.


"Other researchers may have observed this behaviour in tigers, but this is the first instance I can recall of a tigress using her claws to open a camera trap and take all the batteries out. It still remains a mystery as to where she learned how to do it and how she actually did it. We can explain it as just an accident or instincts, although she might have seen researchers installing camera traps. This is a surprising occurrence, but frankly speaking, we should understand that an animal's 'attack' on a camera trap is always researchers' fault. We will make an effort to avoid this in the future," said Sergei Aramilev, general director of the Amur Tiger Centre.


The camera trap remains operational, with its latest images showing Yelena “in the act.”


As for Pavlik, he has been consistently exploring remote areas in the Amur Region. Just recently, after approaching the banks of the Zeya River near Nikolsk and, according to scientifically confirmed data, becoming the westernmost tiger in the past 20 years of monitoring efforts, Pavlik suddenly changed his route and headed north, apparently seeking the northernmost status. He nearly succeeded in doing so, but after he reached the area north of the village of Etyrken in the Khabarovsk Territory, he changed course once again and moved south along the border with the Khabarovsk Territory towards the Bureya Reservoir.


"As we previously reported, Pavlik had already visited this reservoir and even made attempts to swim across it, but back then he approached it from the south. The tiger may still be seeking to explore the hard-to-reach river bank from the north. But, on a more serious note, it appears that Pavlik judged the northern territories as uninhabitable and turned south to return to the Khingano-Arkharinsky Nature Sanctuary. Time will tell whether this is the case, as long as the batteries in his GPS collar don’t run out. Due to the territory's remoteness and lack of roads, the research team has so far been unable to inspect Pavlik's movement clusters; yet, given their number and the tiger's lengthy stays in the area, Pavlik regularly and successfully hunts large hoofed prey, which seems to be plentiful," Sergei Aramilev says.