A tigress named Zolushka (Russian for Cinderella) was successfully released to the wild by the International Fund for Animal Welfare jointly with the Phoenix Fund, Special Inspection Tiger, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
|Amur Tiger [Credit: IAFW]
As it happens frequently in Russia’s Far East, the Amur tigress became an orphan in the winter of 2012. Zolushka’s mother was a likely victim of poaching.
“Tigers’ habitats are shrinking; their hunting territories decrease due to unprecedented logging and wildfires. The decline of the ungulate population (the tigers’ prey base) is also of great concern,” explains Maria Vorontsova , IFAW Russia Director. “Poaching is flourishing because tigers are highly valued in the traditional medicine market of neighboring China. All of these reasons lead to female tigers dying with increased frequency. Hungry and exhausted tiger cubs then wander into villages in search of food.”
Cinderella had to be removed from the wild and placed in the rehabilitation facility for endangered species built by the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution together with Inspection Tiger near the village of Alexeyevka in Primorsky Krai.
Thanks to the joint efforts of these two organizations financially supported by IFAW and the Phoenix Fund, Cinderella underwent a special rehabilitation program.
The tigress spent a year at the rehabilitation facility monitored by conservationists who were taking care of improving her physical condition and adapting her for reintroduction into the wild.
Cinderella learned to hunt and to stalk her prey. For over six months the tigress was feeding exclusively on live deer, hogs and raccoons that she hunted in her spacious enclosure.
All contacts with humans were eliminated, and monitoring was performed remotely through video cameras.
“The tigress is prepared to go back to the wild; she is in good physical shape; she is successfully stalking and hunting her natural prey and avoids human beings,” explains Dr. Viatcheslav Rozhnov , Deputy-Director of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution.
“Thanks to the high professionalism of conservationists at the rehabilitation facility, Cinderella, we believe, is completely ready for the next – independent – stage of her life,” said Sergei Bereznuk, Phoenix Fund Director.
Cinderella was fitted with a satellite collar and released last week at the Bastak Nature Reserve in Primorsky Krai, where she will be monitored by rangers. Satellite monitoring is already showing that the tigress is moving across the Reserve territory, and experts are hopeful that her first steps in her new, completely wild life, are successful.
“Hopefully she will adjust successfully and will breed soon,” said Vorontsova. “Today, when the entire tiger population remaining in the wild is just 3,200, with approximately 400 of them in Russia, every tiger’s life is precious for saving them from extinction.”