Siberian Tiger: Wikis

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Siberian Tiger
simplified Chinese: 东北虎
Chinese: 東北虎
Russian: Амурский тигр
Mongolian: Сибирийн бар
Persian: ببر سیبری
Korean: 시베리아호랑이
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Pantherinae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. tigris
Subspecies: P. tigris altaica
Trinomial name
Panthera tigris altaica
Temminck, 1884
Distribution of the Siberian tiger (in red)
Original western distribution of the Siberian tiger (in red)
Synonyms

P. t. virgata (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, Caucasus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan)
P. t. lecoqi (China) (Disputed, might be a new variant)
P. t. trabata (Kazakhstan)
P. t. septentrionalis (Azerbaijan)

The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur, Manchurian, Altaic, Korean, North China or Ussuri tiger is a subspecies of tiger which once ranged throughout Western, Central Asia and eastern Russia, though it is now completely confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsk Krai in far eastern Siberia, where it is now protected. It is the biggest of the eight recent tiger subspecies and the largest living felid, attaining 300 kg (660 lb) in exceptional specimens.[2] Genetic research in 2009 revealed that the current Siberian tiger population is almost identical to the Caspian tiger, a now extinct western population once thought to have been a distinct subspecies.[3]

Contents

Physical characteristics

Pelage

The pelage 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-extirpated 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. The whiskers and hair on the occiput and the top of the neck is also greatly elongated. The background colour of the winter coat is less bright and rusty compared to that of the summer coat, and tends to be more ocherous. Due to the winter fur's greater length, the stripes appear broader with less defined outlines. The summer fur on the back is 15–17 mm (0.59–0.67 in) long, 30–50 mm (1.2–2.0 in) along the top of the neck, 25–35 mm (0.98–1.4 in) on the abdomen, and 14–16 mm (0.55–0.63 in) on the tail. The winter fur on the back is 40–50 mm (1.6–2.0 in), 70–110 mm (2.8–4.3 in) on the top of the neck, 70–95 mm (2.8–3.7 in) on the throat, 60–100 mm (2.4–3.9 in) on the chest and 65–105 mm (2.6–4.1 in) on the abdomen. The whiskers are 90–115 mm (3.5–4.5 in).[4]

Size and weight

The Siberian tiger is typically 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in) taller at the shoulders than the Bengal tiger, which is about 107–110 cm (42–43 in) tall.[5] Males measure 270–330 cm (110–130 in) long and weigh 190–306 kg (420–670 lb); females measure 240–265 cm (94–100 in) long and weigh 100–167 kg (220–370 lb).[6] The largest male, with largely assured references, measured 350 cm (140 in) "over curves" (330 cm (130 in) between pegs) in total length.[7] The tail length in fully grown males is about 1 m (39 in). The bodies of the now extinct western populations were generally less massive than that of their Far Eastern cousins, and their average size was slightly less. In Turkestan, male tigers exceeded 200 cm (79 in) in length, though an estimated body length of 270 cm (110 in) was recorded. Females were smaller in size, normally ranging between 160–180 cm (63–71 in). The maximum known weight was 240 kg (530 lb). Although tigers from Turkestan never reached the size of Far Eastern tigers, there are records of very large individuals of the former population.[4] Weights of up to 318 kg (700 lb) have been recorded[7] and exceptionally large males weighing up to 384 kg (850 lb) are mentioned in the literature but, according to Mazak, none of these cases can be confirmed via reliable sources.[7] A further unconfirmed report tells of a male tiger shot in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in 1950 weighing 384.8 kg (848 lb) with an estimated length of 3.48 m (11.4 ft).[8]

Female Siberian tiger

The "Siberian Tiger Project", which has operated from Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik since 1992, had found that the heaviest male (T-20) weighed 205 kg (450 lb) and seemed to be the largest that they were able to verify, albeit from a limited number of specimens.[9] According to modern research of wild Siberian tigers in Sikhote-Alin, an average adult male tiger (>35 months) weighs 176.4 kg (389 lb) (the average asymptotic limit, computed by use of the Michaelis-Menten formula, gives 222.3 kg (490 lb) for male tigers) and an adult tigress 117.9 kg (260 lb). The mean weight of historical Siberian tigers is supposed to be higher: 215.3 kg (475 lb) for male tigers and 137.5 kg (303 lb) for females. [10] At least one authority suspects that this is the difference between real weights and hunter's estimates.[5] Dale Miquelle, program director of the Siberian Tiger Project, writes that, despite repeated claims in the popular literature that the Siberian is the largest of all tigers, their measurements on more than fifty captured individuals suggest that it body size is, in fact, similar to that of Bengal tigers.[11] The body measurements, taken by the scientist of the Siberian Tiger Project in Sikhote-Alin, states that the average head and body length, measured in straight line, is of 195 cm (77 in) (range 178–208 cm (70–82 in)) for the males and 174 cm (69 in) (range 167–182 cm (66–72 in)) for the females. The average tail measure 99 cm (39 in) in the males and 91 cm (36 in) in the females. The longest male (“Maurice”) measured 309 cm (122 in) in total length (tail of 101 cm (40 in)) and had a chest girth of 127 cm (50 in). The longest female (“Maria Ivanna”) measured 270 cm (110 in) in total length (tail of 88 cm (35 in)) and had a chest girth of 108 cm (43 in). These measurements show that the present Amur tiger is longer than the Bengal tiger and the African lion.[12]

The skull of the Siberian tiger is distinguished by its larger overall size, as well as the great development of its sagittal crest, whose height and strength exceeds that of other tigers and the lion.[13] Maximum skull length in Amur male tigers is 361.8–383 mm (14.24–15.08 in), while the females range from 279.7–310.2 mm (11.01–12.21 in). The skull length of the males of Turkestan had a maximum length of 297.0–365.8 mm (11.69–14.40 in), while that of females was 195.7–255.5 mm (7.70–10.06 in). On January 10, 1954, a tiger killed on the Sumbar in Kopet-Dag had a skull greatest length of 385 mm (15.2 in), which is considerably more than the known maximum for this population and slightly exceeds that of most Far Eastern tigers. However, it's condylobasal length was of only 305 mm (12.0 in), smaller than those of the Amur tigers, with a maximum recorded condylobasal length of 342 mm (13.5 in).[14] Based on skull measurements, it appears that the biggest Siberian tigers came from Manchuria, where today the cats are reduced to a handful of individuals. The largest Manchurian skull on record measures 406 mm (16.0 in) in length, which is about 20–30 mm (0.79–1.2 in) more than the maximum skull lengths achieved by tigers from the Amur region and northern India.[15]

Reproduction

A Siberian tigress with a cub at Buffalo Zoo

Siberian tigers reach sexual maturity at four[16] years of age. They mate at any time of the year. A female signals her receptiveness by leaving urine deposits and scratch marks on trees. She will spend a week with the male, during which she is receptive for three days. Gestation lasts from three to 3½ months. Litter size is normally three 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.[5]

Cubs are divided equally between genders 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, thus making them more vulnerable to poachers and other tigers.[5]

Genetics

Several reports have been published since the 1990s on the genetic makeup of the Siberian tiger and its relationship to other subspecies. One of the most important outcomes has been the discovery of low genetic variability in the wild Far Eastern population, especially when it comes to maternal or mitochondrial (mtDNA) lineages.[17] It seems that a single mtDNA haplotype almost completely dominates the maternal lineages of wild Siberian tigers. On the other hand, captive cats appear to show higher mtDNA diversity. This may suggest that the subspecies has experienced a very recent genetic bottleneck caused by human pressure, with the founders of the captive population being captured when genetic variability was higher in the wild.[18][19] However, it may well be that the Siberian tiger population has always shown relatively low genetic diversity, due to a small number of founders colonising the Far East. Work with the preserved remains of the now extinct Caspian Tiger (P.t. virgata) has shown that the two subspecies share a comparatively recent common history, at least when it comes to mtDNA lineages. It appears that tigers colonised central Asia at most 10,000 years ago, and the modern Siberian stock may be the result of a few Caspian tigers subsequently wandering east via northern Asia.[20]

New genetic analysis revealed that the extinct Caspian tiger lives on in the Siberian Tiger. Researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom collected tissue samples from 20 Caspian tiger specimens kept in museums across Eurasia. Afterwards, researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in Frederick, Maryland, sequenced parts of five mitochondrial genes. The Caspian Tiger's mitochondrial DNA is only one letter of genetic code separated from Siberian Tiger DNA, while it is readily distinguishable from the DNA of other tiger subspecies. This indicates that the Caspian and the Siberian subspecies are really one. The scientists have concluded that the two are so similar because both were descended from the same migrating ancestor. The ancestor colonized Central Asia via the narrow Gansu Corridor (Silk Road) from eastern China. The researchers suggest that through the early 1900s, Caspian and Siberian tiger populations intermingled, but hunters subsequently isolated the two groups. This resulted in the Siberian population splitting off from the Caspian population only in the past century.[14]

Behavior

Taxidermied exhibit portraying a Siberian tiger chasing a deer
Amur Tiger at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Scotland

Dietary habits

In the southeast Trans-Caucasus, the Siberian tiger's main prey was Wild Boar, though it occasionally fed on Roe Deer, Red Deer and domestic animals such as dogs, pigs, sheep, and cattle in winter. Tigers in Iran ate the same species with the addition of gazelle. The Siberian Tiger's prey in Turkmenia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan was primarily boar, as well as Bactrian deer. In the lower Amu Darya River, tigers sometimes preyed on Golden Jackals, Jungle Cats, lynx, and dholes. On the Zhana-Darya and around the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, as well as boar, the tiger fed on Saiga, Goitered Gazelle, Wild horses, Mongolian Wild Ass and Argali. In Tajikistan and other regions of central Asia, as well as Kazakhstan, tigers frequently attacked dogs, horses and rarely Bactrian Camels. In Baikal, the Siberian tiger fed on Wild Boar, Roe Deer, Manchurian wapiti, Moose and livestock.[4]

In the Amur region, the tiger preys primarily on Red Deer and Wild Boar, which make up 65-90% of its diet in the Russian Far East. Other important prey species are Manchurian wapiti, Moose, Siberian Roe Deer, Sika Deer, Musk deer and goral. It will also take smaller prey like lagomorphs (hares, rabbits, and pikas) and fish, including salmon.[7] Tigers may prey on both Brown and Black Bears when ungulate populations decrease.[4]

Interspecific predatory relationships

Asian Black Bears and Ussuri Brown Bears constitute 5-8% of the Siberian tiger's diet.[7] The brown bear's input is estimated to be 1-1.5%.[21]. Certain tigers have been reported to imitate the calls of Asiatic black bears to attract them.[22] Brown bears are typically attacked by tigers more often than black bears, due to their habit of living in more open areas and their inability to climb trees. When hunting bears, tigers will position themselves from the leeward side of a rock or fallen tree, waiting for the bear to pass by. When the bear passes, the tiger will spring from an overhead position and grab the bear from under the chin with one forepaw and the throat with the other. The immobilized bear is then killed with a bite to the spinal column. After killing a bear, the tiger will concentrate its feeding on the bear's fat deposits, such as the back, hams and groin.[4] Tiger attacks on bears tend to occur when ungulate populations decrease. While tigers can successfully hunt bears, there are also records of brown bears killing tigers, either in disputes over prey or in self defense, and in at least one instance, of a bear consuming a tiger.[4][23][24] There have been observations of bears that changed their path after coming across tiger trails, as well as of bears following tiger tracks with no signs of fear and sleeping in the same den.[4][25] However, despite the threat of predation, some brown bears actually benefit from the tiger's presence by appropriating tiger kills that the bears may not be able to successfully hunt themselves, as they usually dominate these disputes over kills.[26]


In areas where wolves and tigers share ranges, the two species typically display a great deal of dietary overlap, resulting in intense competition. Wolf and tiger interactions are well documented in Sikhote-Alin, which until the beginning of the 20th century, held very few wolves. It is thought by certain experts that wolf numbers increased in the region after tigers were largely eliminated during the Russian colonization in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is corroborated by native inhabitants of the region claiming that they had no memory of wolves inhabiting Sikhote-Alin until the 1930s, when tiger numbers decreased.[27] Tigers depress wolf numbers, either to the point of localized extinction or to such low numbers as to make them a functionally insignificant component of the ecosystem. Wolves appear capable of escaping competitive exclusion from tigers only when human pressure decreases tiger numbers.[28] Today wolves are considered scarce in tiger inhabited areas, being found in scattered pockets, and usually seen travelling as loners or in small groups. First hand accounts on interactions between the two species indicate that tigers occasionally chase wolves from their kills, while wolves will scavenge from tiger kills. Tigers are not known to prey on wolves, though there are four records of tigers killing wolves without consuming them.[27] This competitive exclusion of wolves by tigers has been used by Russian conservationists to convince hunters in the Far East to tolerate the big cats, as they limit ungulate populations less than wolves, and are effective in controlling wolf numbers.[29]

Habitat

In the southeast Trans-Caucasus, the Siberian tiger was mostly confined to the forests of the Talysh lowlands in areas where streams and reed thickets along marine lagoons were adjacent. In Turkmenia, Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan, the tiger favoured river and lake basins, densely grown reeds, plume grass or tugai forests consisting of poplar, oleaster and willow. The Siberian tiger was sometimes encountered in montane belts, in summer ascending up to the permanent snowling in Kazakhstan and Kirgizia. Tigers were captured in fir and juniper groves at heights of 2,500-3,000 meters above sea level in Kirgiz, Trans-Ili and Dzhunarsk Alatau. Generally, the western Siberian tiger populations thrived in areas with an abundance of wild boar and Bactrian deer, large water supplies, dense thickets and low snow cover.[4]

The Siberian tiger in the Far East is mostly confined to low mountains, having been displaced by humans from lower areas. Its most common habitats are mountain river valleys and pads overgrown with pine and oak, as well as among mountains teaming with deciduous shrubs or in oak or nut-tree groves. It travels only through dense spruce forests, and is attracted to rocky areas and forests abundant with wild boar, wapiti and moose. In times of food scarcity, it can travel through village outskirts and hay fields. In areas of heavy snowfall such as the Primor'e region, the tiger avoids areas of deep snow due to the scarcity of game in such areas, as well as the frost causing the tiger's presence to be more conspicuous.[4]

History

An Iron age saddle from Siberia, depicting a Siberian tiger hunting a moose

The Tungusic people considered the Siberian tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as "Grandfather" or "Old man". The Udege and Nanai called it "Amba". The Manchu considered the Siberian tiger as Hu Lin, the king.[5] The most elite unit of the Chinese Imperial Army in Manchu Qing Dynasty is called Hu Shen Yin, literally The Tiger God Army.

In the early years of the Russian Civil War, both Red and White armies based in Vladivostok nearly wiped out the local Siberian tigers. In 1935, when the Manchurian Chinese were 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 East Manchurian mountains were cut off from the main population by the building of railroads. Within a few years, the last viable Siberian tiger population was confined to Ussuriland. Legal tiger hunting within the Soviet Union would continue until 1947 when it was officially prohibited. In 1962, the last tiger in Heilongjiang received protection. In the mid 1980s, it was estimated that the Siberian tiger population consisted of approximately 250 animals.[5]

In 1987, law and order almost entirely broke down due to the impending collapse of the Soviet Union. Subsequent illegal deforestation and bribery of park rangers made the poaching of Siberian tigers easier, once again putting the subspecies at risk from extinction.[5] However due to the work of The Siberian Tiger Project, founded in 1992, the Siberian tiger has seen a steady recovery and stabilization after the disastrous post-Soviet years that saw its numbers decline sharply. The basis of the success has largely been on the meticulous research carried out on these tigers which led to the longest ongoing study of a single tiger, Olga Project Tiger #1. Through this the project was able to focus their conservation efforts to decrease tiger mortality and to improve the quality of their habitat as well. The project included anti-poaching patrols, consultation with local governments regarding human-tiger conflicts, reducing the occurrences of clearcut logging, and other habitat depletion activities.[30]

Extinction of western populations

Color-enhanced photo of a captive "Caspian tiger" specimen in the Berlin Zoo, 1899.

Until the 19th century, Siberian tigers (formerly known in their western range as Caspian tigers) still inhabited wide spaces of Western and Central Asia. In the mid-1800s, Caspian tigers were killed 180 km northeast of Atbara, Kazakhstan and near Barnaul, Russia (Ognev 1935, Mazák 1981). The only reported Caspian tiger from Iraq was killed near Mosul in 1887 (Kock 1990). In 1899, the last Caspian tiger near the Lop Nur basin in Xinjiang, China, was killed (Ognev 1935). Caspian tigers disappeared from the Tarim River basin in Xinjiang, China, by the 1920s. (Nowell & Jackson 1996) In 1922, the last known tiger in the Caucasus region was killed near Tbilisi, Georgia, after killing domestic livestock (Ognev 1935). The last record of the Caspian tiger on the Ili River, their last stronghold in the region of Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan, dates to 1948. (Nowell & Jackson 1996)

The Russian government had worked heavily to eradicate the Caspian tiger during planning a huge land reclamation program in the beginning of the 20th century. They considered there was no room for the tiger in their plans and so instructed the Russian army to exterminate all tigers found around the area of the Caspian Sea, a project that was carried out very efficiently. Once the extermination of the Caspian tiger was almost complete, the farmers cleared forests and planted crops like rice and cotton. Due to intensive hunting and deforestation, the Caspian tiger retreated first from the lush lowlands to the forested ranges, then to the marshes around some of the larger rivers, and finally, deeper into the mountains, until it almost certainly became extinct. In 1938, national park Tigrovaya Balka was opened in Tajik SSR to save Riparian forests and rare animals, including Caspian Tiger, but it didn't help the population of tigers. It was the last stronghold of the Caspian tiger in the Soviet Union. Tigrovaya Balka national park is situated in Tajikistan in the undercurrent of Vakhsh River between the Piandj and Kafirnighan near the border of Afghanistan. The last Caspian Tiger was seen there in 1958.[31]

Some reports state that the last Caspian tiger was shot in Golestan National Park (Iran) or in Northern Iran in 1959 (Vuosalo 1976). However, other reports claim that the last Chinese Caspian tigers disappeared from the Manas River basin in the Tian Shan mountains, west of Ürümqi, China, in the 1960s. (Nowell & Jackson 1996) The last record from the lower reaches of the Amu Darya river near Lake Aral was an unconfirmed observation near Nukus in 1968 while tigers disappeared from the river’s lower reaches and the Pyzandh Valley once a stronghold, in the Turkmen-Uzbek-Afghan border region by the early 1970s (Heptner and Sludskii 1972). (Nowell & Jackson 1996) There are even claims of a documented killing of this subspecies at Uludere, Hakkari in Turkey during 1970 (Üstay 1990; Can 2004). Some reports even state that the final Caspian tiger was captured and killed in Northeast Afghanistan in 1997.

The most frequently quoted date is the late 1950s, but has almost no evidence to back it up. It appears this date came to be accepted after being quoted by H. Ziaie in "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Iran". Now, the most evidence reflects an even earlier date of extinction. The area of Iran that contained the last Caspian tigers was in fact the eastern region of Mazandaran, Northern Iran. According to E. Firouz in “A Guide to the Fauna of Iran, 1999”, the last tiger was killed in 1947 near Agh-Ghomish Village, 10 km East of Kalaleh, on the way to Minoodasht-Bojnoord. An exact date of extinction is unknown.

Sightings and doubts about western extinction

Possible last sighting in Turkey

The following excerpts are taken from "Can, O.E. 2004. Status, Conservation and Management of Large Carnivores in Turkey. Council of Europe. 29 pages. Strasbourg, France".

."Earlier in the 20th century, the presence of the Caspian tiger had been known by Turkish (Turkish Republic Official Gazette, 1937). Yet, when the Caspian tiger was declared extinct in the world, international zoologists did not accept the idea that the Caspian tiger distribution range extended as far as eastern Turkey (Dr. George Schaller, Ankara, Turkey, personal communication, 2003). In fact, the species was officially a pest species until July 11, 2004 in Turkey. In the 1970s, surveys conducted by Paul Joslin in Iran turned up no signs of the Caspian tiger and the conclusion was made that the Caspian tiger had been extirpated. International cat experts only became aware of the presence of the Caspian tiger in Turkey after a tiger was killed in Uludere, Þõrnak 1970 (Uludere was a sub-province of Hakkari in 1970). Three years later, a botanist visiting the area saw and photographed the tiger pelt and published the story (Baytop, 1974)."

Turkish scientists, during a study on the field, reached some information on the presence of the Caspian tiger.

"Within the framework of Southeastern Anatolia Biodiversity Research Project of WWF-Turkey, a survey was conducted to reveal the large mammal presence and distribution in the region (Can & Lise, 2004). Within the framework of the first attempt to collect systematically the large mammal data in Southeastern Turkey. First, a questionnaire was designed and distributed to 450 military posts in the region. The questionnaire included questions about the presence of large mammal species and each questionnaire was accompanied with Turkey's Mammal Poster of Turkish Society for the Conservation of Nature (which became WWF-Turkey later). The questionnaires were filled out by military personnel in cooperation with the local people and 428 questionnaires were returned to WWF-Turkey. The questionnaires also included questions related with the historical tiger presence in the region. Later, the questionnaire results were used to identify the areas on which the field survey will focus.
The questionnaire revealed that some military personal had heard rumors about the presence of large cats in the region. During the interviews with local people, the mammal team collected rumors about big cat sightings and met local people that claimed to hear roaring from different sites. In addition, it was reported that there was a local tiger pelt trade in the region and three to five tigers were killed in each year and the pelts were sold to rich land lords in Iraq until the mid-1980s. This confirms Turan's findings (1984,) who obtained his information from local hunters in the region. Baytop (1974) similarly reported that 1-8 tigers were killed each year in the Þõrnak region.
Considering that one to eight tigers were killed each year in Eastern Turkey until the mid 1980s, the tiger that was killed in Uludere was a young individual according to the stripe patterns. The Caspian tiger is likely to have existed in the region at least until the early 1990s. Nevertheless, due to lack of interest in addition to security and safety reasons, trained biologists had not attempted to survey in Eastern Turkey before."
Reported sightings

There are still occasional claims of the Caspian tiger being sighted, with some occurring in Afghanistan, (pug marks [tiger paw prints] have occasionally been reported), and others coming from the more remote forested areas of Turkmenistan. However, experts have been unable to find any solid evidence to substantiate these claims and the last reliable sighting was probably at least 30 years ago. It has also been suggested that the 'tiger' sightings may actually be Persian Leopards. Any hope of Caspian tigers in Afghanistan could be further dashed as war continues to rage across areas of the country.

Without photographic evidence, expert assessment of pug marks, attacks on animals or people, or a sighting by an expert authority, it has been assumed that the Caspian tiger no longer exists.

Captivity

Siberian tigress with cub in captivity

The captive population of Siberian tigers comprises several hundred. A majority of these tigers live in eastern Russia's birch forests, though some exist in China and North Korea.[32]

The large, distinctive and powerful cats are popular zoo exhibits. The Siberian tiger is bred under the auspices of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), in a project based on 83 tigers captured in the wild. According to most experts, this population is large enough to stay stable and genetically healthy. Today, approximately 160 Siberian tigers participate in the SSP, which makes it the most extensively bred tiger subspecies within the program. There are currently no more than around 255 tigers in the tiger SSP from three different subspecies. Developed in 1982, the Species Survival Plan for the Siberian tiger is the longest running program for a tiger subspecies. It has been very fortunate and productive, and the breeding program for the Siberian tiger has actually been used as a good example when new programs have been designed to save other animal species from extinction.

The Siberian tiger is not very difficult to breed in captivity, but the possibility of survival for animals bred in captivity released into the wild is small. Conservation efforts that secure the wild population are therefore still imperative. If a captive bred Siberian tiger were to be released into the wild, it would lack the necessary hunting skills and starve to death. Captive bred tigers can also approach humans and villages, since they have learned to associate humans with feeding and lack the natural shyness of the wild tigers. In a worst-case scenario, the starving tigers could even become man-eaters. Since tigers must be taught how to hunt by their mothers when they are still cubs, a program that aimed to release captive bred Siberian tigers into the wild would create great difficulties.

Attacks on humans

Unlike the Bengal tiger, the Siberian tiger very rarely becomes a man-eater.[4][5] Several cases of attacks on humans were recorded in the 19th century, occurring usually in central Asia (excluding Turkmenistan), Kazakhstan and the Far East. Siberian tigers were historically rarely considered dangerous unless provoked, though in the lower reaches of Syr-Darya, a tiger reportedly killed a woman collecting firewood and an unarmed military officer in the June period whilst passing through reed thickets. Attacks on shepherds were recorded in the lower reaches of Ili. In the Far East, during the middle and third quarter of the 19th century, attacks on man were recorded. In 1867 on the Tsymukha River, tigers killed 21 men and injured 6 others. In China's Jilin Province, tigers reportedly attacked woodsmen and coachmen, and occasionally entering cabins and dragging out both adults and children.[4] According to the Japanese Police Bureau in Korea, in 1928, a tiger claimed only one human victim, unlike leopards which claimed three, wild boars four and wolves 48.[33] Only six cases were recorded in 20th century Russia of unprovoked attacks leading to man-eating behaviour. Provoked attacks are however more common, usually the result of botched attempts at capturing them.[5]

In an incident at the San Francisco Zoo on 25 December 2007, a Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped and killed one visitor, injuring two others. The animal was shot dead by the police. The zoo was widely criticized for maintaining only a 12½ ft (3.8m) fence around the tiger enclosure, while the international standard is 16 ft. (4.8m). The zoo subsequently erected a taller barrier topped by an electric fence. The police say that one of the victims admitted to taunting the animal.[34][35]

Russia-Iran Re-population project

Iranian and Russian ecologists are planning a joint project to return Caspian Tigers and Asiatic Cheetahs to the wild in Central Asia. These big cats became extirpated some half a century ago - the Asiatic Cheetah from Russia and Caspian Tiger from Iran. Recent genetic studies have shown that the Amur (or Russian) Tiger is related and virtually identical to the extinct Caspian Tigers; thus, the Russians want to offer the Amur Tiger to Iran to repopulate the Caspian Tiger range in northern Iran. In exchange, Russia wants to acquire from Iran some critically endangered Asiatic Cheetahs to repopulate northern Caucasus region of central Asia, their last abode. There are many more Amur Tigers in the wild than the tiny numbers of surviving Asiatic Cheetah, and while there is a healthy population of Russian Tiger in the captive breeding program in zoos,[36][37] there is no captive breeding population of the Asiatic Cheetah in any zoo.[38][39] While discussing the prospects of reintroducing the cheetah in India, cheetah experts the world over have warned that no individuals from the critically low Asiatic Cheetah population in Iran should be withdrawn at this stage for any reintroduction experiment elsewhere, like the one proposed by Russia in exchange for relatively much more abundant Amur Tiger, since the limited gene pool of Asiatic Cheetah in Iran will suffer a tremendous blow.[40]

Over-breeding in China and death in Chinese preserve

The Associated Press reporting out of Beijing on March 12, 2010 that "eleven rare Siberian tigers kept in small cages and fed only chicken bones have died of malnutrition at a cash-strapped zoo in China's frigid northeast, state media said Friday. A manager at the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo in Liaoning province, however, said the animals had died of disease." The AP reports that China, which had undertaken an aggressive breeding program, now had a tiger surplus.

References

  1. ^ Miquelle, D., Darman, Y. & Seryodkin, I (2008). Panthera tigris altaica. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 23 March 2009.
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  33. ^ Devils in the Darkness: The Korean Gray Wolf was a terror for miners
  34. ^ "AP, "Tiger attack victim admits taunting, police say; Teen attacked by Tatiana reportedly says young men yelled, waved at cat", MSNBC.com (January 17, 2008)". http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22719922/. 
  35. ^ "Jaxon Van Derbeken, "S.F. Zoo mauling investigation winding down" San Francisco Chronicle (January 19, 2008)". http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:Xoz8QDFZ9gEJ:www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi%3Ff%3D/c/a/2008/01/19/MNKDUHQRQ.DTL+%22S.F.+Zoo+mauling+investigation+winding+down%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us. 
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  38. ^ Iran, Russia Hope to Revive Extinct Big Cats Asiatiac Cheetah and Caspian Tiger; Source: Press TV; 09 january 2010; Payvand Iran News, payvand.com
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  40. ^ Experts eye African cheetahs for reintroduction, to submit plan; ICT by IANS; September 11th, 2009; Thailand News; A news portal for Indians in Thailand. See also at sulekha news Newshopper.sulekha.com Indiaenews.com

External links


Simple English

File:Siperiantiikeri
A Siberian tiger in Korkeasaari Zoo , Helsinki , Finland

The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur Tiger, Manchurian, or North China Tiger, is a subspecies of the tiger, of the Felidae family. It is also the largest and most powerful member of the Felidae family. It is thought that the tigers originally come from Siberia.

The male Siberian tigers can weigh as much as 300 kilogram (660 pounds). The Siberian Tiger is usually only 2-4 inches taller at the shoulder than the Bengal tiger. Old males reach a head and the body length of 190-220 centimeters 75-97 inches.

The Siberian Tiger is found in a very small part of eastern Russia, with a few in the nearby northern parts of Korea and China. It is very endangered and almost all over the world in zoos they are protected. There are only 500 left.

Before Amur Tigers were protected strictly in Soviet Union but when it broke there was less protection and the number came down.nly 400-500 left.

Amur tigers usually eat elk (Moose) , deer and cattle. But if they have little food they would have to eat brown bears and leopards. It would also eat also eats domestic dog if it is from its habitat.

The Siberian tiger can be recognised by the fur around the neck, which makes it warm. This is an adaption against the cold. Close to the winter the Siberian tigers hair grows longer so they can face the wintry weather.

Other websites

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