In May 2015, a three year old Amur tiger was successfully captured, collared and released into a mountainous region in the Russian Far East. The young male was identified as a ‘conflict tiger’ in a prey depleted area but rather than confining him to a life of captivity, the Russian government opted to give him a second chance.
The tiger, named “Uporny” – the Russian word for stubborn – had been captured around Khabarovsky province where he had been eating dogs, bringing him into potential conflict with humans. The Government Forest Department (Ministry of Natural Resource of Khabarovsky Province) organised and implemented the trans-location operation with the assistance of WWF and the Amur Tiger Center. Uporny was taken to the Utyos Rehabilitation Center, the largest wild animal rehabilitation center in the Russian Far East. Here he was given a general health check, including an inspection of his teeth. He was vaccinated for common diseases and also fed prey to assess his hunting abilities and suitability for release into the wild.
“Non-Governmental Organisations only provided consultation and assistance. The government carrying out its conservation responsibilities of rare species, like the Amur tiger, is how it should be. The efforts of all official agencies were excellent!" - Pavel Fomenko, Biodiversity Conservation Program Coordinator for WWF-Russia
Once Uporny was ready to be released, he was fitted with a lightweight radio collar. The collar has a special function that allows it to drop off when the team send a signal. Having been flagged as a potential conflict tiger, Uporny will be monitored until he is well established in his new area. For the first month, a team of specialists will be tracking his location and eating habitats on a constant basis, using GPS data sent from the collar as well as tracking him on the ground. Once the collar detaches, he will be monitored using camera traps and the recording of his pugmarks.
“This is a wild tiger. He was entirely ready to be released into his natural environment.” - Eduard Kruglov, Head of the Utyos Rehabilitation Center
Uporny has been released into a sparsely inhabited mountainous area on the border with Anyuisky National Park; one of the tiger recovery areas identified by WWF-Russia. The recent National Tiger Survey indicated that the area has a good prey base and is free of territorial male tigers, making it an ideal location to release Uporny. The presence of a female Amur tiger in the area gives hope that Uporny will not only continue to live wild and free, but also breed – contributing to the recovering tiger population in Russia.
Special credit goes to Pavel Fomenko, coordinator of WWF-Russia, who was key behind this effort; from darting the tiger to coordinated his release during the operation. A big thank you also goes out to all of our WWF supporters around the world, whose kind donations bought the transport cage and vehicle used in this release.