UK zoos go the rescue of Russia's wild tigers
Thursday 26 April 2001
UK zoos have joined forces, following an appeal by fellow tiger conservationists in Russia, to help rescue wild Amur tigers that have been affected by the severe winter in the Russian Far East. The special Tiger Response Team, set up by the Russian authorities to deal with conflicts between tigers and humans, has requested tiger crates to hold and move wild tigers that have strayed into villages during the bad winter. Five UK and seven European zoos have responded and the crates are now under construction in Moscow Zoo.
With temperatures 10 degrees lower than usual, the past winter was particularly hard on tigers and their prey. Numbers of the tiger’s natural prey species, red deer and wild boar, are already low from poaching and overhunting and because of the hard winter, resulting in the tigers being deprived of their natural food resource.
"This has been a terrible winter and has driven a great many tigers into villages looking for food" says Sarah Christie, Conservation Programmes Co-ordinator for The Zoological Society of London (ZSL). " Tigers have been forced to prey on domestic animals such as dogs and this leads to conflict with the local population."
One very thin tiger was discovered in a villager’s basement and tiger conservationists Boris Litveenov and Dale Miquelle had to move the full-grown animal to a veterinary centre in the back of a car, with their fingers crossed that the anaesthetic would not wear off too soon!
"The crates will be an invaluable asset in our attempts to safely rescue these tigers and ensure that they can be moved to areas where they have some chance of survival." Says Dale Miquelle of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "The crates will also be used for shipping tigers to zoos in cases where there is no alternative, but the primary aim is to help the tigers survive in the wild."
In another of many incidents over the winter, two tiger cubs were abandoned under a house when their mother was chased off after she had killed a villager’s dog. Both were rescued by Litveenov and members of the Hornocker Wildlife Institute’s Siberian tiger project -- they were found to be severely underweight and one had a badly infected facial wound, possibly from a dog. Because of the infection, and because their mother could not be found, these two cubs are now in Moscow Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) for this species. Co-ordinated by Sarah Christie at London Zoo, the programme includes zoos from England to Russia and from Finland to Italy.
Though the weather is now beginning to improve, the effects of the bad winter will continue to have an impact on this endangered species as many tigers may be too weak to hunt for food. Threatened by poaching and habitat loss, the severe winter is just another setback for this critically endangered species. Even in a normal winter, there are always some incidents of tiger-human conflicts. UK zoos are very pleased to be able to help the Tiger Response Team to deal with these in the future.
For more information please contact:
The Zoological Society of London’s PR Office:
Debbie Curtis: 020 7449 6363/ 07889 043843
Joe Laing: 020 7449 6236
Peter Beatty: 020 7449 6361
Notes to Editors
- Video footage
Betacam SP footage of the rescued cubs being treated at Moscow Zoo is available. The video shows one of the two Amur tiger cubs that were rescued from under a house when they were attacked by village dogs. Their mother was chased away by villages but Russian conservationist retrieved the cubs and took them to Moscow Zoo for treatment. Both were found to be very underweight and the footage shows the treatment of a severe facial wound that one of them received. UK Zoos have joined together to fund the building of crates to safely rescue and transport wild tigers such as these.
Images of Amur tigers and tiger conservationists in action in the field are available.
Sarah Christie is available for interview at London Zoo/Whipsnade Wild Animal Park
- Contributing Zoos
UK zoos contributing to this project are: The Zoological Society of London (London Zoo), Banham Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Marwell Zoo, Chester Zoo.
European zoos contributing are: Cologne Zoo (Germany), Agrate Zoo (Italy), Lisbon Zoo (Portugal), Servion Zoo (Switzerland), Mulhouse Zoo (France), Ouwehands Zoo (Netherlands), Helsinki Zoo (Finland), Moscow Zoo (Russia)
- Tiger facts
There are only about 400 Amur (or Siberian) tigers left in the wild.
There are over 220 Amur tigers in the European breeding programme, in zoos from England to Russia and from Finland to Italy.
The Amur tiger, named after a river that runs through its natural far eastern habitat, has fought an increasing battle for survival since the fall of the Soviet Union, when Russia opened its borders to wildlife traders from Korea and China, and environmental protection resources all but disappeared.
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