On August 31, 2008, Vladimir Putin and Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu visited the Ussuri Reserve, which has been carrying out a programme to protect the Amur tiger.
First, Vladimir Putin visited the field tent of mammalogists, or scientists studying mammals. They showed Putin the special devices that they use to study big predators: a GPS collar, a phototrap, a special iron loop and a rifle with a telescopic sight to immobilise animals at a distance.
While Putin was in the tent, the group received a message from researchers from a special team working in the forest saying that a five-year-old tigress had been trapped. It was very lucky as one would often have to wait for several months for an Amur tiger to end up in the loop. The researchers suggested that Putin go to see the trapped animal.
The moment that Putin, Shoigu and a group of researchers appeared on the trail, the tigress broke free from the trap. Putin took a shot at the animal with the air gun loaded with syringes containing a tranquilliser. The tigress fell asleep a moment later.
Putin pointed to the tigress' open eyes.
"That's the way it should be," one of the researchers said.
"Does she see anything?" Shoigu asked.
"Yes, she does and she'll remember you," Putin joked.
While the tigress was asleep, the researchers measured her body length, weight, blood pressure and pulse rate, and also took a blood test.
"There isn't any alcohol in her blood?" Vladimir Putin joked again and then asked: "How long will the animal go on like this?"
"It can be prolonged, but normally it lasts 30 or 40 minutes," the researcher said.
"Then she'll start eating us, a snack of sorts," Putin remarked. "As for you, it's okay, you have been in for it. And why us? There are others who can eat us, apart from her!"
Putin and one of the researchers fastened a satellite-tracked GPS collar around the tigress' neck. From now on, all information about the predator's migration will be transmitted to the researchers' computer in real time. The GPS collar's battery life is 500 days, after which the collar will automatically unfasten.
The Amur tiger is seen as an animal at the top of the ecological pyramid in the Russian Far East. Preservation of this symbolic subspecies has really become a major goal for the state, Putin said.
Putin told the researchers that the government would support the efforts to protect not only the Amur tiger but also other big cats living in Russia. The cats that will be protected in Tuva are snow leopards, and in the Far East leopards, whose numbers are very small.
Putin's visit to the Ussuri Reserve was extensively covered in the press:
Komsomolskaya Pravda: "Putin's Encounter with an Ussuri Tiger"
Kommersant: "To Lead and To Tame"