In mid-November 2013, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s office in Vladivostokr eceived a request from the Ministry of Natural Resources of Khabarovskii Province to assist in capturing a conflict tiger in the village of Sukpai.This tiger had been preying upon village dogs for weeks, and the locals there were too frightened to go outdoors at night. This story had reached the provincial media, who regularly provided updates about these tiger attacks. This was therefore a story that impacted people and their attitudes towards tigers living far beyond Sukpai.
Dealing with conflict tigers quickly and professionally is one of the most important tasks that the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) does in the Russian Far East. If such situations are not addressed quickly and professionally , the local human population can quickly develop a negative attitude towards tigers. Therefore, efficient resolution by a well-trained team will win the trust of local peoples and contribute to their tolerance of this rare predator.
The Rybin brothers, Aleksandr and Nikolai, are WCS’s capture specialists. Theyhave extensive experience in the capture and immobilization of large predators (tigers, leopards, bears, etc.), and have assisted provincial and federal authorities in human-tiger conflict situations for years. They quickly collected the necessary equipment and headed to Khabarovsk.
This particular tiger turned out to be very cunning and cautious, and spent nearly a full month avoiding all baited traps. It would slip into the village, kill a dog in someone’s yard, then take the carcass out to the forest. The next time it entered the village would be in a completely different place. As aresult, it took nearly a full month to finally catch this tiger. The capture team (WCS staff and wildlife inspectors and staff of the Khabarovsk Department for Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas under the direction of O. Gunin) use dall of their ingenuity and endurance to finally lure this tiger into a trap. It turned out to be a young, very well-fed tigress, with no visible wounds ordiseases.
However, as this tigress showed no fear of humans during the capture and immobilization process, the capture team was concerned, as this type of behavior can be indicative of sickness or some other abnormality. Given this unknown, instead of relocation (the standard response with a healthy conflict tiger), it was decided that the tigress be sent to the Utyos Rehabilitation Center for further observation, a veterinary exam, and some rest, after which the Ministry of Natural Resources will decide her fate.
Aleksandr Rybin of WCS Russia sets a trap for a conflict tiger near the village of Sukpai. December 2013. Photograph © N. Rybin, WCS Russia
The tigress who avoided capture for a full month is finally caught. Note the tranquilizer dark in her flank. Photograph © A. Rybin, WCS Russia
The immobilized tigress is hauled down a steep slope to the waiting transport vehicle. Photograph courtesy O. Gunin (Khabarovsk Department of Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas)
The immobilized tigress is ready for transport to the Utyos Rehabilitation Center for a veterinary exam and temporary captivity. Photograph courtesy O. Gunin (Khabarovsk Department of Protection of Wildlife and Protected Areas)