Releasing young Amur tigers into the wild
in Amurskaya Oblast, Russian Far East
In our last update we described how three tigers cubs, named Ilona, Boris, and Kuzya
, had been immobilized at the Alekseevka Rehabilitation Center in Primorskii Krai and sent on the long journey to the Amurskaya Oblast, a region that had not seen resident tigers for decades. The tigers were transported in custom-built trailers clear through the southern Russian Far East including the provinces of Primorskii Krai, Khabarovskii Krai,and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
Our convoy of five vehicles left Alekseevka on the afternoon of May 20th, with representatives of Inspection Tiger, Severtsov Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The trip took just over 24 hours to complete, driving non-stop with drivers taking turns at the wheel in order to minimize the amount of time the tigers were confined in their cages. Finally, on May 21st, just after the odometer passed the 1,300 km mark, the convoy arrived at our destination.
The Amur tiger Kuzya on release - the first to go.
Amurskaya Oblast, Russian Far East
The young tigers were fed and given water upon arrival. The release was overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself on May 22nd,when Mr. Putin and V. Rozhnov of the Severtsov Institute pulled the rope to lift the door of the first cage. Kuzya was the first to be released, and he ran off without a moment’s hesitation, knocking over an expensive video camera that had been mounted along the exit door as he rushed out.
The door to Ilona’s cage was then opened, but the wary tigress was much more cautious than Kuzya, andwas very apprehensive about emerging. Giving her time to decide, Boris’s cage was finally opened. He hesitated at first, but after assessing the situation and smacking the cage with a ringing slap, he jumped out and disappeared into the forest. Finally, Ilona left the security of her enclosure and headed off towards the two males already out in their new home.
The Amur tiger Ilona on release - the last to leave.
Amurskaya Oblast, Russian Far East
With each tiger outfitted with a GPS collar, the specialists are able to receive hourly updates on the location of each tiger. During the first week following release, the tigers began to explore their new territory. During the first night Boris and Ilona stayed within 50 m of each other (about the same distance they had been from each other in the Alekseevka Rehab Center), and both continued to linger within two or three kilometers of the release site over the next few days. In contrast Kuzya set off to explore the greater surroundings, and was soon far to the southeast of the release site.
Boris and Ilona began to separately explore their new home, and by the end of the week both were about 11 kilometers from the release site, and no longer in such close association.
In collaboration with the Amurskaya Oblast Wildlife Department, specialists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Inspection Tiger will continue to monitor the movements of these youngsters, and investigate locations where these animals have been to discover whether they are finding food, and any other evidence of how they are adapting to their new home.
Kuzya at the moment of release - terrified of what waits outside the open cage. ©Photo IFAW
Kuzya paws at the camera during his release. ©Photo IFAW
The Amur tigers Ilona and Boris during their release - waiting to go. ©Photo IFAW
Boris makes a break for it! ©Photo IFAW
These actions to return the Amur tiger to its historical habitat are an important step towards increasing total tiger numbers in Russia, and are conducted within the framework of the Reintroduction Plan put forth by the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, with the active participation of Inspection Tiger and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and with support from Phoenix Fund and the International Fund for Animal Welfare