Early this year I wrote about a Tigress named Zolushka, whose name translates to Cinderella, who was orphaned in the Russian Far East in 2012. Zolushka was rescued, rehabilitated and ultimately released in 2013 into territory that had not previously seen Tigers in decades. The ‘Zolushka experiment’ was the first of its kind and proved successful when confirmation was received via camera traps and a GPS collar that she was not only doing well, but had managed to hook up with a male Tiger named Zavetny. At the time scientists were hoping that Zolushka, the first rehabilitated Tiger in history, would eventually mate and have cubs. This December the just captured proof was released, images photographed and filmed by camera traps. Cinderella and her two beautiful and healthy looking cubs appear to be doing well.
Scientists involved in Zolushka’s release had been waiting for this moment for a long time and were beyond thrilled at the news as it also shows that rehabilitating Amur Tigers is possible. In order for rehabilitation to be considered successful IFAW sets out this criteria, which Zolushka has managed to meet all of:
- The animal survives
- It behaves in the same way a wild animal would
- There is little or no conflict with people and domestic animals – like any other wild animal
- No harm is caused to the existing population or conservation efforts
- And in the case of Amur tigers, that they successfully survive the hardest survival period (i.e. winter)
“We are overjoyed with the news of Zolushka becoming a mother to two healthy cubs,” said Masha Vorontsova, IFAW Russia Director. “This is what we’ve all been hoping for since her release in 2013. This shows that she has fully adapted to a life in the wild and is able to successfully hunt, breed and now raise a new generation of Amur tigers.”
This ground-breaking conservation effort was jointly carried out by IFAW, the Phoenix Fund, Special Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). While Zolushka’s story garnered the most attention she is one of five other Tigers that have been successfully released back into the wild.