A Family Portrait

The following images captured using camera traps, in Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve in eastern Russia, shows that there is still lots we do not know about the very rare Amur Tiger.

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A family of three Amur tiger cubs and a female being led through a snowy forest by a large male. Image created by stitching together several images ©Wildlife Conservation Society

Amur Tigers are known for being solitary and highly secretive cats, sparsely distributed across at least 180,000 km2 in the southern Russian Far East. They are among the most endangered of the big cats, and in 2005 their numbers were estimated between 430-500 individuals remaining in the wild. Surveys are conducted every 10 years (the latest was completed in February and results are to be released this summer) and are highly difficult requiring the involvement of hundreds of scientists, hunters, and volunteers.

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Camera traps set up in the forests of Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve in eastern Russia captured these amazing images
– Image Daily Mail Online

It was generally thought that males and females only come to together to mate, the pair separating soon after, but these images which are the first ever recorded, show that on occasion Dad may have a hand in rearing his young.

Slide show of Amur Tiger family walking through the snow

WCS Russia Director Dr. Dale Miquelle said even though there has been “documented sporadic familial groups of Bengal tigers as early as the 1960s, this is the first time such behavior has been photographed for Amur tigers in the wild. These photos provide a small vignette of social interactions of Amur tigers, and provide an evocative snapshot of life in the wild for these magnificent animals.”

21 photos show an entire family of tigers passing in the span of two minutes

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Dad leads the way – The first to trigger the camera trap was the large male – Image Daily Mail Online

Luck and timing Deputy Director for Scientific Programs at the Reserve, Svetlana Soutyrina, set these camera traps and says that out of the hundreds of Tiger photographs collected over the years this is the first time they “have recorded a family together…and it confirms that male Amur tigers do participate in family life, at least occasionally” – source Wildlife Conservation Society

Amur Tiger facts

  • Panthera tigris altaica is referred to as the Amur or Siberian Tiger
  • In the 1940’s populations were estimated to be only 20-30 individuals, widespread hunting for their skins and taking cubs from the wild to supply zoos around the world contributed to their rapid and dangerous decline
  • In 1947 Russia outlawed and enforced strict Tiger hunting laws and population recovery happened with established protected areas and maintenance of large tracts of habitat outside of the protected zones
  • Research conducted under the Siberian Tiger Project demonstrated that resident female tigers need 250-450 km² to successfully rear cubs where the males territory can be up to 1,385 km² and overlap with several female territories
  • Reproduction starts at around 3 years of age, and mating can occur at any time of year with gestation lasting 3 – 3 ½ months
  • Tigers often give birth on the ground in dense, brushy areas with most cubs being born in summer and fall
  • Litter sizes are between one and five cubs but disease, hunger, congenital defects, and predation claim approximately 50% of cubs in their first year
  • Male tigers leave their mothers to find their own territory  between 16 and 22 months old traveling hundreds of kilometers in search of a new territory
  • In the winter the Siberian Tigers coat can be somewhat lighter than that of other Tigers and people sometimes mistakenly think that they have white fur
  • Amur Tigers are classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List
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The Siberian tiger and Bengal tiger subspecies rank among the biggest living cats – Image – Wikipedia

Threats

  • Poaching of Tiger parts (skin, bones, meat) for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Retaliatory killings of Tigers when the big cats kill livestock and people’s dogs
  • Habitat destruction of forest resources by activities such as logging
  • Vehicle fatalities by logging trucks and increased poaching due to access roads
  • Overhunting by humans of the Tigers prey like elk, wild boar, and sika deer
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The oldest Siberian tigers in zoos have lived to 35 years of age, but 14 years is the oldest known age for an Amur tiger in the wild. Image – Wikipedia

Tiger Restoration

Plans to help the  Amur Tiger make a comeback include strategies like anti-poaching and snare removal campaigns; education and support for local communities that live with the big cats; and monitoring of Tigers along the Russian-China border.

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Protecting this big cat will no doubt require a united and determined effort. Image – Wikipedia

What does the future hold for the recovery of the Amur Tiger? Be sure to check back to read about a groundbreaking experiment underway in Russia that aims to help give these rare animals a much-needed boost.

 

 

On The Edge – Global Tiger Day

July 29 is International Global Tiger Day, marked to bring awareness to a very critically endangered species.

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The Crisis

  • Over 97% of all wild Tigers have been lost
  • It is now estimated that there are less than 3000 left in the wild
  • There are more captive Tigers, like Tony the Truck Stop Tiger, in the USA than in the wild

Threats

  • Deforestation, climate change, loss of prey, contact and conflict with humans and hunting are but a few factors taking a toll on Tigers
  • The biggest threat to Tigers however is from poaching for their bones, skins and various body parts used in TCM

Wildlife crime is extremely organized, violent and it is booming”

  • “The illegal tiger trade is growing because of a claim in Far Eastern culture and Traditional Chinese Medicine that tiger parts can cure human illnesses. This is scientifically unproven. Claims include that consuming a tiger eyeball will help cure epilepsy; or that tiger bone wine will help cure arthritis.”
  • “The demand for tiger skins and tiger bone wine is booming as wealthy businessmen buy these goods to prove their wealth. These products are also used as bribes for promotions within corporations.” – source TigerTime

“…China has created a demand that is unlikely to cease. Today there are tiger farms, where pelts and bones are collected. While tiger farms have many additional issues based on the inhuman conditions farm tigers are kept, these farms fuels the demand of tiger products, wild or not.” – source Earthtimes.org

In the News
Recently China admitted in public that “it permits trade in skins from captive tigers”. It was huge and the news rapidly spread around the world. Read the BBC News article here if you missed it.

While all this is very daunting, I will be the first to admit, it does not mean we give up. Here are some way you can help:

  • Sign the AVAAZ petition to Close all Tiger Farms in China
  • Go to TigerTime, find your country contact listed and email your CITES Rep asking them to support an end to Tiger Farming in China
  • On Facebook follow organizations like End Tiger Trade and Tiger Time
  • Educate by sharing the information on your social networks

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Tigers – Dying To Be The Main Course

There are some things that leave me asking why, with what we know today, is this stuff still happening. Tigers have long been the victims in the unrelenting and cruel pursuit of pseudo-medicine. Tiger farms (parks) in China have been allowed to flourish and the trade in Tiger parts continues despite the species being listed as Endangered.

Most recently 10 Tigers were killed to entertain rich Chinese business men. Wealthy individuals paid money to see Tigers killed, then to eat them, Tigers literally dying to be the main course. The details are gruesome and it ended with 15 arrested and one of the participants leaping to his death trying to evade capture by authorities. Entertainment, corruption, greed, death.

There are less than 3,000 Tigers left in the wild (maybe) and 5,000 + in China in captivity. Will those who profit from and consume Tiger parts ever stop or is this species doomed?

Decades of trafficking and habitat destruction have slashed the roaming big cat’s numbers from 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species, where it is classed as endangered.”

Decades of trafficking and habitat destruction have slashed the roaming big cat’s numbers from 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species, where it is classed as endangered.Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-03-tiger-chinese-rich-powerful.html#jCp

“Trade in tiger parts was banned nationwide in 1993, although bones are sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine and as a tonic for men.”

“The last Indochinese tiger in China was killed and eaten by a poacher in 2007.”

“The South China Tiger, a separate species that once roamed in Hong Kong, was killed off in large numbers in the 1950s and is believed to be extinct in the wild. There have been no official sightings since the early 1970s”

How to help

Sign up with and organization like Tiger Time and add your voice to help ban the trade in Tiger parts.  Educate others, you would be surprised how many people are simply unaware, and when traveling be aware and never buy any products derived from Tigers. Contact the Chinese Government or your local embassy encouraging them to close Tiger farms and commit to enforcing a ban on Tiger parts for good.

Tiger, Tiger Trade, China, Tiger bones, Killed for entertainment, asian medicine, stop tiger farms in ChinaIn the meantime, all those people involved should have their “wealth” redirected to support Tiger conservation, mass education on this issue and anti-poaching units. May not be an equal trade for the Tigers lives, but it’s a start.