Hi all. I’m sorry that did not let you know about wild life news from Russian Far East for a long time. But as for recent case – It is just my duty to tell you about it.
The story starts with phone call in the last days of the February – It was my friend-biologist from Sikhote-Alinsky reserve (North-East of Primorsky kray). He told me that dead tiger was found there recently. Tiger died with quite strange conditions, and necropsy should be performed soon. Conditions were really strange – front limbs were covered by multiple deep wounds/bites. Tiger took these wounds presumably from another tiger. However, there were no visible serious traumas that could cause animal death. Of course, such event produced for me huge interest and enthusiasm to investigate this case.
For the first I contacted institution, where necropsy should be performed, to clear up question of my presence and taking part in this procedure. Pathologists warmly accepted my application, and reported that necropsy should be performed on the 3rd of March (i.e. in three days). Undoubtedly, necropsy will throw light on many things, but I was bursting to find out something and I started to collect information about tiger, his life – all that was possible.
Tiger is happened to be resident male of the area. Tiger was not radiocollared, but phototraps “caught” animal quite often. The first time was in 2007 when “our friend” was photographed near red deer kill. According to assertions of biologists in that time animal was about 1,5–2 years old, thus animal was 5,5 years old at least to this moment. It was also discovered that female was present in this area, and possibly – another male. Our male spent about twenty four hours on the rookery (in one place) before death. Who did such deep bites still was a mystery.
The day of necropsy had come. People from different – government and non-government – organizations had assembled there. It was established that wounds on the limbs were taken relatively for a long time ago, it was bites of another tiger. Wounds were seriously infected (they had color of boiled meat). Septicemia was the cause of death. Furthermore, fresh injuries presented as hemorrhages were revealed in the area of hind limbs, which told us that by having pathological process in the front limb tiger had another fight before death. But another interesting stuff was revealed during the necropsy procedure – stomach contents were presented by remains of another tiger.
Cannibalism in populations of wild tigers is a quite rare event. As far as I found out - there were only 3 fixed cases (including that one) of cannibalism among tigers on the Russian Far East for last 50 years. On another hand, it is common that one male kills during fight another one to confirm his dominance in the area, or kills cubs (from foreign litter) to do mating with female – but consuming of killed congener … Such cases could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
These circumstance begged a lot of questions at the reserve employees. As parts of consumed tiger (part of head and paws) were found in the stomach it means that our male consumed them not so long time ago (2-3 days). If take to account that our tiger slacken off during last days – this fact lessened radius of area for searching of consumed tiger remains. Special group of reserve employees were sent for this purpose. Their work was not vain as they had found two skeletons of tiger cubs (about 6 months old) with eaten head and limbs. There were no doubts that our tiger consumed these ones.
Now everything, more or less, slotted into place. Possibly it had happened in such way – to have mating with female tiger killed her cubs. By trying to protect children, tigress (or even cubs for themselves) injured male. Infection joined to injured tissues afterwards. It is difficult to say now if tiger was predisposed to cannibalism or animal just could not get another prey because of weakness – but he consumed cubs before death – this is fact. Of course, It is not necessary that all thing happened in such way – we just can guess, but such sequence of events seems to be logical at least.
As for fresh hemorrhages – point of little combat between our male and another male was found near the place of death. They fought about two days before our one has gone. So, five tigers in the area of 2 square kilometers were looped in this event – which is strange in itself.
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
Follow the latest news on ZSL’s Arts & Culture projects at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, and ZSL’s conservation work through the lense of the Arts.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL’s amphibian experts in their quest to find out why 41% of the world’s amphibians are threatened and what can be done to stop more species becoming extinct.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.