Putin’s Tiger Caught on Film One Year After Release

Masha N. Vorontsova, Regional Director in Russia for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has some exciting news to share, posted below. In the previous year IFAW released 5 Amur tigers in collaboration with President Putin and recently captured some camera trap footage of one tigress Ilona.

It has now been more than a year since the biggest Siberian tiger release in history. Four of the five Amur (aka Siberian) tigers released last year in the Russian Far East have adapted successfully to life in the wild. Newly released video captured by a camera trap positioned at the Khingan Nature Reserve shows a healthy tigress Ilona marking her territory.

Ilona released into the wild (Photograph: © IFAW/M. Booth, 2014)

Satellite tracking and camera trap videos show that the rehabilitated orphan tigress continues to thrive in the Russian forests near the Chinese border. By tracking her movements, scientists have learned that she is hunting wolves, deer and wild boar.

“Success stories like Ilona are helping to change the opinion and policy of officials in the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources,” said Maria Vorontsova, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Russia director. “There was a general belief that it was impossible to rehabilitate and return orphan tiger cubs back to the wild. IFAW and our partner groups have now proven that it is indeed possible.”

Nicknamed “Putin’s tigers” after President Vladimir Putin’s participation in the release, all but one of the five tigers have successfully adapted to life in the wild. Kuzya, Ilona, Borya and Svetlaya have been tracked and are establishing territories of their own. Ustin was caught after months of wandering near human settlements, along the Chinese-Russian border and was ultimately taken to the Rostov-on-Don zoo due to public safety concerns.

Camera trap photo of a rescued Amur tiger cub, Ustin, at the Rehabilitation Center in Alexeevka.
Camera trap photo of a rescued Amur tiger cub, Ustin, at the Rehabilitation Center in Alexeevka (Photograph ©IFAW, 2014)

The tigress Zolushka (which means Cinderella in Russian) was released in 2013 and was the first to be successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild. Scientists report that she is doing well and continues to thrive in the Bastak Nature Reserve. It is believed that she found a mate, Zavetny, and may already have given birth to cubs. If the young survive, they will increase the remaining population of approximately 400 wild Amur tigers.

With ongoing support from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, a multi-group collaboration between IFAW, Special Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Phoenix Foundation make this tiger rescue, rehabilitation and release possible.

Male tiger, Kuzya moments after his door is opened for his release back to the wild. The release was attended by Russian President (Photograph: © IFAW/M.Booth, 2014)
Male tiger, Kuzya moments after his door is opened for his release back to the wild. The release was attended by Russian President (Photograph: © IFAW/M.Booth, 2014)

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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While his own research focuses on learning about and protecting the fossa, Madagascar's elusive top predator, Luke Dollar has also devoted himself to promoting smart and effective conservation throughout the world. As a part of this larger dedication, he also heads up National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative. Learn More About Luke Dollar and His Work