A year after release 'Putin's tigers' are reported as thriving


The Tiger with large striped cat

One year after five orphaned Siberian tigers were released in the Russian Far East the signs are four out of the five are doing well and have adapted successfully to life in the wild.

Thanks to four camera traps IFAW had donated to the Khingan Nature Reserve, there is now have footage of Ilona the tigress looking healthy and marking her territory.

Satellite tracking and camera trap videos show that the rehabilitated orphan tigress continues to thrive in the Russian forests near the Chinese border. By tracking her movements, scientists have learned that she is hunting wolves, deer and wild boar.

"Success stories like Ilona are helping to change the opinion and policy of officials in the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources," said Maria Vorontsova, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Russia director. "There was a general belief that it was impossible to rehabilitate and return orphan tiger cubs back to the wild. IFAW and our partner groups have now proven that it is indeed possible."

[embedded content]

Nicknamed "Putin's tigers" after President Vladimir Putin's participation in the release, all but one of the five tigers have successfully adapted to life in the wild. Kuzya, Ilona, Borya and Svetlaya have been tracked and are establishing territories of their own. Ustin was caught after months of wandering near human settlements along the Chinese-Russian border and was ultimately taken to the Rostov-on-Don zoo due to public safety concerns.

The tigress Zolushka (which means Cinderella in Russian) was released in 2013 and was the first to be successfully rehabilitated and reintroduced to the wild. Scientists report that she is doing well and continues to thrive in the Bastak Nature Reserve. It is believed that she found a mate, Zavetny, and may already have given birth to cubs. If the young survive, they will increase the remaining population of approximately 400 wild Amur tigers.