VLADIVOSTOK (July 17, 2017) A photograph just released by PROO Tiger Center provides further evidence that tigers are re-colonizing lost habitat in Russia.

The image shows Svetlaya, an adult Amur tigress that was orphaned in the wild, raised in captivity, and released back into the wild in 2014, walking along a trail in April 2017 with her back half caked in spring mud. But what really has scientists celebrating is that the photograph reveals the legs and shadow of at least one cub!

The image, recorded in the wild by a motion-activated “camera trap,” is important because Svetlaya is one of six initial tigers to be released in the Pri-Amur region of Russia, an area where tigers disappeared decades ago due to loss of prey and human persecution. The idea behind the project, developed by the Russian scientists, is to restore a population of tigers in the Pri-Amur that may eventually link back to the primary tiger population in the nearby Sikhote-Alin Mountains.

After her release, Svetlaya established a home range in the Zhuravlinii Wildlife Refuge, where, amazingly, another rehabilitated tiger named Borya found her in 2015, after venturing 300 km as the crow flies from his own release site. Regular monitoring revealed that Borya and Svetlaya stayed in close proximity to one another through the past two winters, and often shared kills.  Female Amur tigers rarely produce cubs until they are 3.5 to 4 years old, an age Svetlaya reached only in fall of 2016. So the arrival of a cub in April 2017 that is at least a few months old was right on schedule.

And now, Svetlaya joins Zolushka as a founding mother of the Pri-Amur tiger population.

“This photograph provides new evidence that our attempts to raise orphaned cubs and release them back into the wild has been a success,” said Victor Kuzminko, head of PROO Tiger Center, where Svetlaya (and the other Pri-Amur tigers) were rehabilitated prior to release.

Dale Miquelle, Tiger Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, noted, “This image demonstrates not only that we can rehabilitate and release tigers back into the wild, but we can use this process to recolonize lost tiger habitat. This capacity is important not only in Russia to recolonize the Pri-Amur, but in many countries in Asia where tigers have disappeared from suitable habitat.”

As the world waits in curiosity, the scientists feel confident they will capture additional images of the as-yet unnamed cub(s). Stand by for updates!

Primary collaborators for this project included the A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution from the Russian Academy of Sciences (whose scientists conceived and led the project), the Russian Geographical Society, Inspection Tiger, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), ANO Center for Amur Tigers, and Phoenix Fund. WCS’s contribution to this effort was supported by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, the Bobolink Foundation, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, IFAW, Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA), the AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan's Tiger Conservation Campaign, and Vanguard Charitable on behalf of Ronald and Christie Ulrich.



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