About 500 Siberian or Amur tigers are left in the wild, with 95% of them in the Russian Far East. Within the tiger’s range in Russia, the largest protected area is the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, a 400,000 ha (4000 km2) reserve that has been a stronghold for the Amur tiger since its creation in 1935, and which harbors over 30 tigers today. In 1992 WCS (initially as the Hornocker Wildlife Institute) in cooperation with the Sikhote-Alin Reserve began intensive studies of tiger ecology under the Siberian Tiger Project, today the world’s longest running radio-telemetry based tiger research and conservation effort.
Research and Conservation
The goal of the Siberian Tiger Project is to collect the best possible scientific information on tiger ecology for use in conservation plans. Through radio-tracking of more than 60 tigers since 1992, WCS specialists have studied their social structure, land use patterns, food habits, reproduction, mortality, and relationship with other species, including humans. As a result we have consistently made sound conservation recommendations based upon comprehensive knowledge of tiger ecology and the role of tigers in the forested ecosystems of the Russian Far East. The Siberian Tiger Project positions WCS as scientific leaders in Russia, and gives us the credibility to engage policy-makers as scientists with a real understanding of tiger conservation needs.
The Siberian Tiger Project has always sought to combine traditional Russian approaches to field research, such as snow track counts, and best approaches from abroad, such as radiotelemetry, in order to achieve new, ground-breaking results. Current research is focusing on cub mortality, dispersal and survivorship, comparison of density estimation techniques, and understanding the relationship between poaching and population structure and dynamics.
Fast facts about tigers at the northern limits of their range.
Photo gallery: A closer look at tigers studied under the Siberian Tiger Project.
Managing Conflict Situations
Through the Siberian Tiger Project, WCS has equipped a team of experts with the necessary skills to work with wild tigers, and to conduct captures, health assessments, translocations, and subsequent monitoring. For this reason, since 1999 the Russian government has annually requested WCS’s assistance in resolving tiger-human conflict situations.
WCS involvement in addressing tiger-human conflicts has resulted in improved capacity to alleviate problem situations through aversive conditioning and translocation of problem tigers, as well as in reduced human-caused mortality and improved safety of local citizens. We have conducted and documented the first ever successful rehabilitations and translocations of problem tigers of any subspecies, providing a new and potentially effective tool for dealing with tiger-human conflicts throughout the world.
Read more about managing tiger-human conflicts.
Training the Next Generation of Conservation Biologists
In 2008 WCS finished construction of the Sikhote-Alin Research Center, which serves as a training ground for promising Russian graduate students in wildlife biology and biodiversity conservation. Russian students based at the center conduct research jointly with foreign graduate students, with supervision from WCS and Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik scientific staff, maximizing opportunity for cultural, linguistic, and scientific exchange, and improving the skills needed for young Russian and Western ecologists to establish themselves in the international conservation arena.
Ongoing collaborative projects include camera trapping and assessment of methods for estimating tiger density, studies of bear behavior, and research on habitat use by Blakiston’s fish owls. Students at the Sikhote-Alin Research Center also participate extensively in radio-telemetry, tracking and capture activities, all conducted as part of the Siberian Tiger Project. We see our work with graduate students as a vital stepping stone in building local capacity in the Russian Far East, and in ensuring that there will be a group of Russian professionals capable of carrying on science and conservation in the region.
Read more about WCS Russia’s support for student research.