The Siberian Tiger, also known as the Amur Tiger, is one of the largest big cats on Earth. It is also one of the most hunted.
Deep in far eastern Russia, the Amur Tiger Center in the Lazovsky Nature Reserve have fought to increase the numbers of these big cats after they were poached near to extinction in the 1940s.
Through several initiatives, the foundation, led by director Sergey Vasilievich, has overseen the population rise to more than 550.
Despite using new technology to track the health of the animals, Amur Tiger Center’s biggest battle is fighting against organized poaching groups who are after their fur and bones.
Sergey said: “Today, poaching in this region is organized. The groups of hunters are so large that even the police can’t always identify them. Poachers only need dead tigers for furs, and they also hunt their prey leading them to die from starvation. Currently our organization is doing everything to find these groups of poachers. We try to open criminal cases and get fair statements to the court.”
The Lazovsky region is home to 95% of the world’s population of Amur tigers and is front and center in the fight to protect them.
Using new technologies, center no longer must catch tigers to collect DNA from them, instead placing video cameras around the region to track their movements and health.
Sergey said: “Tigers are important for nature. From knowing their numbers, we can understand what effects they have on the ecosystem. Last winter we rescued a cub, which would never have survived otherwise. Now thanks to new technologies and rehabilitation centers, they can live to adulthood. Then we can release them back to nature. When you see these beautiful, strong predators returned to freedom, you understand that they are our neighbors and both humans and tigers should live in harmony.”
Part of the protection program focuses on education the local public, which includes organizing a Tiger Day celebration involving more than 30,000 people sharing their knowledge about the species.
Sergey said: “Although the number of Amur tigers is relatively stable, they’re still in danger. We’re aiming to increase the population to 700 tigers. Then we hope to find harmony between humans and tigers. The tigers aren’t dangerous, as long as you know how to react around them.”