On Thursday 22nd May 2014, after a long rehabilitation period three Amur tigers were released into the wild in Zhelundindsky Wildlife Refuge, which is the northwestern part of the Amur tiger range, in Amurskaya Oblast. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attended the release of the striped predators. Vladimir Vladimirovich gives particular attention to the state-supported Amur Tiger Programme and has already drawn public attention towards Amur tiger conservation problems repeatedly.
We would like to remind that two tiger brothers, Kuzya and Borya, together with their sister named Businka were found in November 2012 when they were 4-month-old cubs. As they were extremely emaciated, frostbitten and unable to survive on their own in the wild, it was decided to take them to the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals in Alekseevka, Primorsky Krai, which was built by A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution and Inspection Tiger. Unfortunately, about six months later the tigress Businka died after unsuccessful fight against Feline calicivirus disease.
Ilona, the third rehabilitated tiger that was released in Zhelundindsky Wildlife Refuge, was found near Svetlogorye village in Primorsky Krai on 25th February 2013 when she was 6 or 7 months old cub and initially was transported to Utyos Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Khabarovsky Krai. In September 2013, Ilona was returned back to Primorsky krai in order to be rehabilitated at the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals in Alekseevka and prepared for return into the wild.
Two additional tigers, the female Svetlaya and the male Ustin, are waiting for their turn to be released. Their release is scheduled for June. Rehabilitation and reintroduction is implemented under the Amur Tiger Programme aimed at research and conservation of Amur tigers in the Russian Far East.
“We are happy that the tigers have been returned into the wild. The Phoenix Fund and our adherents and supporters have waited for this event for more than a year, and have provided the Inspection Tiger with financial and organizational support”, says Director of the Phoenix Fund Sergei Bereznuk. “Our staff member together with specialist of A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution visited Amurskaya Oblast just two weeks ago in order to ensure peaceful coexistence among local communities and their new neighbours. A series of lectures on relationship between human and tiger was delivered for hunters and local people. Next week there will be another trip to Jewish Autonomous Oblast, potential release site for other tigers. We would like to thank again all Russian adherents of the Phoenix Fund for their support and wish the tigers a long and happy life”.
On May 20, before their departure to a new home, the animals were observed and measured by the specialists. Also, all necessary tests were taken. Then, the tigers were fitted with satellite collars. Satellite-tracking data will allow rangers of the wildlife refuge and scientists monitor the tigers’ movements. The collars will automatically unfasten in a year, so they will not cause any disturbance to the animals.
It is not the first time when the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals has prepared striped predators for return into the wild. A year ago, a rehabilitated tigress named Zolushka was successfully released in Bastak Nature Reserve in Jewish Autonomous Oblast. This year, it was the largest release of rehabilitated Amur tigers ever, that became possible thanks to the joint efforts of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Phoenix Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).