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Siberian tiger

December 06, 2017

Siberian tiger

The Siberian tiger habitats are in the Far East, particularly the Russian Far East and Northeast China. 

In 2005, there were 331–393 adult and subadult Siberian tigers in this region, with a breeding adult population of about 250 individuals.

The population had been stable for more than a decade due to intensive conservation efforts, but partial surveys conducted after 2005 indicate that the Russian tiger population was declining. 

An initial census held in 2015 indicated that the Siberian tiger population had increased to 480–540 individuals in the Russian Far East, including 100 cubs. This was followed up by a more detailed census which revealed there was a total population of 562 wild Siberian tigers in Russia.

Characteristics

The tiger is reddish-rusty, or rusty-yellow in color, with narrow black transverse stripes.

Body length: 150 cm (60 in) 

It has an extended supple body standing on rather short legs with a fairly long tail.

The average historical wild male Siberian tiger weighed 215.3 kg (475 lb) and the female 137.5 kg (303 lb)

Fur and coat

The ground color of Siberian tigers' pelage is often very pale, especially in a winter coat. However, variations within populations may be considerable. Individual variation is also found in form, length, and partly in color, of the dark stripes, which have been described as being dark brown rather than black.

The fur of the Siberian tiger is moderately thick, coarse and sparse compared to that of other felids living in the former Soviet Union.

Compared to the now-extinct westernmost populations, the Far Eastern Siberian tiger's summer and winter coats contrast sharply with other subspecies. Generally, the coat of western populations was brighter and more uniform than that of the Far Eastern populations. The summer coat is coarse, while the winter coat is denser, longer, softer, and silkier. The winter fur often appears quite shaggy on the trunk, and is markedly longer on the head, almost covering the ears. Apart from that, Siberian and Caspian tigers had the thickest fur amongst tigers, given their occurrence in the more temperate parts of Eurasia.


Ecology and behavior

Siberian tigers are known to travel up to 1,000 km (620 mi), a distance that marks the exchange limit over the ecologically unbroken country.

In 1992 and 1993, the maximum total population density of the Sikhote-Alin tiger population was estimated at 0.62 tigers in 100 km2 (39 sq mi). The maximum adult population estimated in 1993 reached 0.3 tigers in 100 km2 (39 sq mi), with a sex ratio of averaging 2.4 females per male. These density values were much lower than what had been reported for other subspecies at the time.

In 2004, dramatic changes in land tenure, density, and reproductive output in the core area of the Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik Siberian Tiger Project were detected, suggesting that when tigers are well protected from human-induced mortality for long periods, the density of female adults may increase dramatically. When more adult females survived, the mothers shared their territories with their daughters once the daughters reached maturity. By 2007, the density of tigers was estimated at 0.8±0.4 tigers in 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in the southern part of Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik, and 0.6±0.3 tigers in 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in the central part of the protected area.

Reproduction and life cycle

Siberian tigers mate at any time of the year.
A female signals her receptiveness by leaving urine deposits and scratch marks on trees.
She will spend 5 or 6 days with the male, during which she is receptive for three days. Gestation lasts from 3 to 3½ months. 
Litter size is normally two or four cubs but there can be as many as six.
The cubs are born blind in a sheltered den and are left alone when the female leaves to hunt for food.
Cubs are divided equally between sexes at birth. However, by adulthood, there are usually two to four females for every male.
The female cubs remain with their mothers longer, and later they establish territories close to their original ranges.
Males, on the other hand, travel unaccompanied and range farther earlier in their lives, making them more vulnerable to poachers and other tigers.

However, Wildlife Conservation Society camera trapped an adult male and female Siberian tiger with three cubs.

At 35 months of age, tigers are subadults. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of 48 to 60 months.

The average lifespan for Siberian tigers ranges from 16–18 years. Wild individuals tend to live between 10–15 years, while in captivity individuals may live up to 25 years.

Threats

In the early years of the Far Eastern Front in the Russian Civil War, both Red and White armies nearly wiped out the local Siberian tigers.

In 1935, when the Chinese Beiyang Army was driven back across the Amur and the Ussuri, the Tigers had already withdrawn from their northern and western range. The few that remained in the Greater Xing'an Range were cut off from the main population by the building of railroads. Within a few years, the last viable Siberian tiger population in Russia was confined to Ussuriland.

At this time it was on the brink of extinction with only about 40 remaining animals in the wild.

Legal tiger hunting within the Soviet Union continued until 1947 when it was officially prohibited.

Under the Soviet Union, anti-poaching controls were strict and a network of protected zones were instituted, leading to a rise in the population to several hundred.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, illegal deforestation and bribery of park rangers made the poaching of Siberian tigers easier.

Local hunters had access to a formerly sealed off lucrative Chinese market and this once again put the subspecies at risk of extinction. 

While improvement in the local economy has led to greater resources being invested in conservation efforts, an increase in economic activity has led to an increased rate of development and deforestation. The major obstacle in preserving the species is the enormous territory individual tigers require (up to 450 km2 is needed by a single female and more for a single male).

The Siberian tiger was once common in the Korean Peninsula. However, the Tigers in Korea were hunted into extinction by the Japanese during the Japanese occupation. The last Siberian tiger in South Korea was killed in 1922.

Conservation

In 1992, the Siberian Tiger Project was founded, with the aim of providing a comprehensive picture of the ecology of the Amur tiger and the role of tigers in the Russian Far East through scientific studies.

By capturing and outfitting tigers with radio collars, their social structure, land use patterns, food habits, reproduction, mortality patterns and their relation with other inhabitants of the ecosystem, including humans is studied. These data compilations will hopefully contribute toward minimizing poaching threats due to traditional hunting.

The Siberian Tiger Project has been productive in increasing local capacity to address human-tiger conflict with a Tiger Response Team, part of the Russian government’s Inspection Tiger, which response to all tiger-human conflicts; by continuing to enhance the large database on tiger ecology and conservation with the goal of creating a comprehensive Siberian tiger conservation plan; and training the next generation of Russian conservation biologists.

In August 2010, China and Russia agreed to enhance conservation and cooperation in protected areas in a transboundary area for Amur tigers. China has undertaken a series of public awareness campaigns including a celebration of the first Global Tiger Day in July 2010, and International Forum on Tiger Conservation and Tiger Culture and China 2010 Hunchun Amur Tiger Culture Festival in August 2010.

In December 2010, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Russia) and Phoenix Fund initiated a project in co-operation with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to improve the protection of tigers and prey species in four key-protected areas. The project consists of the following components.

  1. monitoring patrol routes and law enforcement results with the patrol monitoring system MIST which is based on GIS-technique
  2. support for patrol teams (fuel, spare parts, maintenance for vehicles and ranger outfits)
  3. bonuses for patrol teams that perform well

The first project results indicate a success. Patrol efforts (measured by total time spent on patrols and distance of foot patrols) in the two protected areas where the project started first have increased substantially.





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