Tigress caught in the Primorye Territory returns to the taiga

Tigress caught in the Primorye Territory returns to the taiga

3 August 2021

The tigress caught in the Khasan District of the Primorye Territory last April has returned to the taiga. She was released on the eve of International Tiger Day under the tiger population recovery programme in the Amur Region.


The release of the tigress was a joint effort, involving employees from the Amur Tiger Centre, the Ministry of  Forestry and Wildlife Protection of the Primorye Territory, the Amur Region’s Wildlife Management Directorate, the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Tigers and Other Rare Animals (Tiger Centre) and the Rosprirodnadzor Directorate of the Amur Region.


The tigress was caught on account of 24 confirmed attacks on dogs and one on livestock. The majority of cases happened in the village of Zanadvorovka , though the tiger made several trips to the neighbouring villages of Filippovka, Provalovo and Barabash. Practically all the attacks on animals occurred in unfenced or unlit courtyards that are practically in the forest. 


The group for resolving human-predator conflicts of the Department for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas of the Primorye Territory tried to scare away the tigress and simultaneously identify the reasons for her aggressive behaviour. However, she continued moving between villages and attacking dogs.


In view of her growing conflict potential, the authorities decided to catch the animal, and Rosprirodnadzor issued a relevant authorisation.


It was hard to catch the predator quickly for a number of objective reasons. The tigress skillfully avoided the traps of tiger hunters, while some village residents of the Khasan District ignored the persistent recommendations of specialists to remove their dogs from the streets and continued to allow their cattle to graze freely although they knew about the tigress problem.


Nevertheless, on the night of  24-25 April, the tigress returned to the village   of Filippovka in the Khasan District. She came back to a resident’s yard, where she killed a dog several hours before, and was caught there. Then the predator was sent to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Tigers and Other Rare Animals in the village of Alekseyevka. The Amur Tiger Centre paid all expenses involved in her upkeep there. During an examination, vets established the presumed reason for her aggressive behaviour.


Sergei Aramilev, General Director of the Amur Tiger Centre, explained that the specialists decided not to examine the tigress in her enclosure but just to watch her without harming her organism by applying   general anaesthesia.


“The vets compared the data they received  while monitoring  the tigress at the rehabilitation centre with  information from the sites of her attacks on animals, and made a clear conclusion about the reasons for her behaviour. The tigress was under acute stress after the loss of her cubs that had occurred, in all likelihood, due to the human factor. Her tests in the rehab enclosure showed that she was good at hunting big hoofed animals. This meant that her attacks on dogs were largely caused by her ‘grievance.’ I must emphasise that the tigress has never posed any danger to humans: she left the places  where she attacked animals as soon as people appeared or lights came on. Now the tigress has overcome the consequences of her stress and gained freedom. I am sure she will have more chances to have cubs. This is the first time in Russia that an adult tigress is taken so far away from her usual habitat. We will watch her closely,” said Sergei Aramilev.


In his turn, Viktor Kuzmenko, Director of the Tiger Centre, said the tigress had successfully completed her rehabilitation programme. She performed about 10 successful hunting tests on sika deer and the same number on boar. She also showed a proper response to humans. In this context, the working group of the Department for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas of the Primorye Territory made a collective decision to release her into the wild in the chosen place. Rosprirodnadzor agreed with the conclusions of the working group.


The release took place in two stages. First, the tigress was tranquilised. Then, the vets examined her, put a tracking collar on her and placed her in a transport cage that was immediately sent to the release site.


To protect the predator from the effects of a heat wave that had descended on the Primorye Territory, the departure from the rehab centre took place at night. The specialists also installed an air conditioning system in the cage for the first time.


The second stage was the release as such. The specialists from the Primorye Territory and the Amur Region brought the tigress to the release site on the following morning. She left the cage and went into the taiga, reinforcing the tiger population of the Amur Region.


 “Considering Yelena, Pavlik and Sanda, who were also caught in the Primorye Territory and released in the Amur Region, this is the fourth animal that we are sending to our neighbours to restore a sustainable tiger group in their region. The Primorye Territory is lucky: it has more tigers than any region in the southern Far East of Russia but no longer that many free habitats suitable for tigers available. This is why it is difficult to find a good place for the return of a tiger to the taiga in our region. Meanwhile, the Amur Region has many taiga areas with a good food supply and guaranteed protection, which assure the comfortable life, safety and minimal conflict potential for the released animals,” said Alexei Surovy, head of the Department for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas of the Primorye Territory.


He emphasised that nobody was catching tigers to move them to another region. The case in point is only animals that had to be removed from their natural habitat.


Russian specialists have amassed unique experience in rehabilitating tigers in difficult circumstances and returning them to the wild. They are removed from their natural habitats due to injuries, wounds, diseases or other factors that pose a threat to their life or have the potential for conflict arising from forced trips to residential areas, attacks on livestock and pets, etc.


Since 2013, eight tigers have been released into the wild with the centre’s support: Saikhan, Lazovka and Filipp – in the Jewish Autonomous Region; Pаvlik, Yelena and Sanda – in the Amur Region, and Vladik – in Bikin National Park in the Primorye Territory. One more tigress, which was delivered to the rehab centre in the village of Alekseyevka in December 2020, was released into the wild on 24 January 2021, in one of the central regions of the Primorye Territory in the environs of Call of the Tiger National Park.

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