Russia as a whole and Siberia in particular are home to some fascinating species of wildlife but for many there is nothing as beautiful as the sight of a Siberian Tiger in the wild. These stunning creatures were all but wiped out during the final days of the Soviet Union and while the Siberian tiger population has recovered to a certain extent, they remain firmly on the endangered list.
The Siberian or Amur Tiger is a subspecies which once roamed right across Western and Central Asia, through Russia, China, Korea and Iran, and in prehistoric times, it’s believed that the animal once thrived in Alaska.
They are distinguished as the largest of all the cats and some can reach weights of up to 320 kg (710 lb)
Lifestyle and habitat
When you consider the harsh, frozen terrain that exists in much of Siberia, it may be a surprise to many that the tiger can even exist here, let alone thrive.
However, these remote areas have traditionally been a fine home for the species and there is an abundance of natural prey here. Not all of Siberia is barren and there are forests that make for a perfect habitat while wild boar and deer are plentiful so the tiger is never short of a ready supply of food.
It’s sad to say that with the tiger as a whole having few, if any, predators in the animal world, the largest threat to its existence has been from man. As far as its habitat is concerned, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate and one that is simply unsustainable.
Another main concern is of course the threat of poaching at the hands of man. As you go back through history, the Siberian Tiger was feared and although attacks on man are very rare, the tiger was routinely killed before it could produce any potential strike.
Poaching of course is a problem not just here but for any tiger anywhere in the world. Its fur and body parts are highly sought after for a number of reasons.
CLOSE TO EXTINCTION
Gradually, the Siberian tiger began to die out in many parts of the world but it came perilously close to total extinction from the mid 1980’s onwards.
With the Soviet Union already heading for its ultimate collapse, lawlessness ruled throughout and in Siberia, corrupt forest rangers were prone to accepting bribes from poachers who were then left free to plunder the Siberian tiger population.
Nobody knows just how close the Siberian Tiger came to complete extinction but estimates suggest that as little as 30 tigers were left in the wild at one point.
Happily, things have improved and thanks to conservation projects, it is thought that there are now around 400 Siberian Tigers living in the wild in Russia. Although this means they are still endangered, the future for this magnificent animal is much brighter.
Happily the locals who once feared them now view them as part of their heritage which is true. The people of Siberia are very lucky to have such a beautiful animal on their doorstep.
Siberian tigers and snow leopards are the most endangered cat species in the world. In the wild they were fewer than three thousand, and their number is constantly decreasing. People hunt them for their fur and because of traditional Asian medicine. It would be a shame that these amazing animals are gone forever, and remain only in stories.