Today, Siberian tigers live mainly in the far South East of Russia. Their main habitat is in the Amur-Ussuri region, in the mountain lowlands. They used to populate a massive area, though – their population was spread across much of Eastern Russia, North East China, Korea and parts of Mongolia.
Siberian tigers are one of eight tiger sub-species, and can grow as large as 13 feet in length, and weigh up to 790lb (360kg), as you can see in the Siberian tiger pictures on this page.
They are on the critically endangered list of species, and it is thought that there are less than a thousand Siberian tigers in the wild of the Russian Far East today – fewer than any other tiger sub-species. There are also a number of Siberian tigers in captivity, in zoos across the world. They aren’t particularly difficult to breed, so from that perspective their survival is probably assured in the short to medium term, but it has proved very difficult to re-introduce them into the wild, which puts their future as a wild species very much in doubt.
They are particularly at threat from hunters and poachers, who hunt them for body parts and their fur. Their bones, in particular are used in Chinese medicine, despite their use for these purposes being illegal in China. Siberian Tigers are so valued for their medicinal properties, though, that their bodies can be sold for up to $50,000 dollars each – which makes it not very surprising that they have (and still are) being killed at such an alarming rate.
They are also at threat because of general habitat encroachment by local populations – Siberian Tigers roam over massive areas, but their habitats are easily disrupted by logging (sometimes legal logging, often illegal logging).
Awareness of the plight of Siberian tigers has been growing – around the world and in Russia itself. Even President Putin has thrown his support behind campaigns to protect these tigers. A recent film of Putin shooting a Siberian tiger with a sedative was recently in the news. Naturally the incident was used as a part of Putin’s PR campaign, designed to show him as a strong leader, and in many reports he was described as having saved a TV crew from an escaped siberian tiger. Nonetheless, anything that raises the profile of this endangered species is, in my view, worthwhile.
If you would like to support Siberian Tigers by donating money to a charity, I recommend the World Wildlife Fund – please visit the WWF page on supporting tigers for more information about how you can help.