RESULTS OF THE SIBERIAN TIGER PROJECT CAPTURE SEASON FALL 2009
In November 2009, our staff completed the joint WCS/SABZ Siberian Tiger Project fall capture season in the Sikhote-Alin Reserve. A very important method of studying the tiger population is radiotelemetry, i.e. radiotracking of tigers fitted with radiocollars. This method has been used at the Sikhote-Alin Reserve for a long time, and has provided us with practical conservation results for this rare predator.
For this reason, tiger captures are an essential part of our research program. Our methods have been used and approved for large carnivore captures throughout the world, and we use it to safely fit our tigers with radiocollars. Tigers with radiocollars are special because they give us necessary information, based on which we develop tiger conservation plans. These individuals help us carry out an important mission, which we hope will have positive effects on future tiger generations, and on human attitudes towards this magnificent animal.
This fall our capture team has worked in one area of the reserve for seven weeks. They achieved great results – four tigers were captured during that time. None of them have been radiocollared before, and were fitted with collars for the first time this fall.
The first captured tiger was an adult resident male. We have already known him based on photos from camera-traps set in different parts of the Sikhote-Alin Reserve, mounted near marking trees along the trails he used to travel around his home range. His home range is unusually large and includes the home ranges of at least six adult female tigers.
Several days later the second tiger, a 5 year old male, was captured. Then, shortly before the end of the capture season we had a double stroke of good luck. One tiger showed himself to our team, coming within 10 meters of their cabin. People saw him in the light of flashlights, and then he disappeared in the forest. The following morning, two tigers were discovered captured in snares. They turned out to be a young brother and sister. Although they were only 18 months old, they looked impressive and were nearly the same size as adult tigers. Later, after obtaining pictures from camera-traps set near their capture site, we found out that the young tigers traveled together with their mother, who escaped the snares.
The results of this capture season are of special importance not only because of our success but also because of the new GPS collars that were fitted on two of the tigers. GPS collars have a significant advantage over the old VHS collars, which were used previously. To obtain information on a tiger with a VHS collar, the researcher can use only radio signals. Given the large size of tiger home ranges, it can be very difficult to locate the animal, and we often loose some of our radiocollared tigers for long periods of time. By contrast, GPS collars identify the location of the tiger every two hours. This information is stored in the collar, and the researcher can download it from a distance using a radio-receiver and antenna. This method provides much more detailed information on tiger movements, and allows researchers to visit and explore those sites where the tiger stayed for longer than 2 hours.
We hope that with these new collars we’ll get much more information about the lives of our tigers, ultimately aiding us in their conservation.