The name Vladik in Russia means ‘peaceful’ or ‘attaining glory’. This was the name chosen for a male Amur tiger found roaming the busy roads of Vladivostok city last year.
When Vladik was found, he was in a tremendously stressful situation – lost among concrete buildings, honking cars, and far away from the Siberian forests where he belongs. He was named, in fact, after the port city he was found in – Vladivostok.
It was mid-October 2016. The sighting of an Amur tiger in the city had caused a sensation. Pictures and videos of Vladik lost in the city appeared all over the headlines of the local news, and even got international attention.
Despite the sightings, it was hard for rangers to track down Vladik without snow to reveal his pug marks.
“Due to the fall foliage, no tracks of wild animals were found. The inspection of the territory was carried out with drones,” said Alexei Surovy, Deputy Head of the Hunting Department of Primorsky Province, which led the search operation.
At night, the press office of the regional police in Primorsky was abuzz. A local citizen reported that a tiger was spotted on one of Vladivostok’s streets. And then another witness informed that the big cat was seen moving across one of the city’s roads.
The police, ranger squads of Primorsky’s Hunting Department and staff of WWF-Russia were mobilized to the actual site. However, in the snowless weather, no pug marks were made. The wild tiger flitted through the city like a ghost and left no traces behind.
A warning was given to the citizens of Vladivostok: “In case anyone meets the tiger, do not run. If he is not provoked to attack, there is a great possibility that the animal will leave the city and find his home in the wild,” noted Pavel Fomenko, Head of Rare Species Conservation Programme at WWF-Russia’s Amur branch.
Earlier that October, a tiger was captured by a car video recorder in Artyom city, just an hour’s drive away from Vladivostok. Pavel reckoned this could be the very same tiger.
At night, on the 20th of October, the police received another tip-off that the tiger was seen in the area of Shamora Bay. Wildlife rangers and the search operation immediately moved to the site.
“Visual contact with the predator was made about 10 pm. The tiger was detected in the forest by thermal camera, and it was at the right distance for the sedative shot,” Fomenko reported.
The team acted quickly, for fear of losing this perfect opportunity. A sedative shot was fired.
Vladik struggled with the sedative for a while before succumbing. He was immediately captured and delivered to the rehabilitation center where all the necessary procedures were carried out: sampling, measurements, and examination.
The first diagnosis was given: Vladik is a young male Amur tiger of about 3 years old, weighing approximately 140 kg, and free of injuries.
Pavel Fomenko commended the excellent work of all agencies involved in the operation – the Hunting Department of Primorsky Province, the police, staff of Amur Tiger Center, veterinarians of the Agricultural Academy and Rehabilitation Center.
Their quick collaborative work had prevented a possible human-wildlife conflict from happening.
As Vladik underwent rehabilitation, a new home was decided for him.
Bikin National Park was chosen to be his new refuge. There he will not find concrete jungle, only a good prey base.
“This place was chosen not accidentally. It is not the territory of other male tigers or large predators, but there are a lot of ungulates and it is far from human settlements”, said Alexey Kudryavtsev, Director of Bikin National Park.
Amur tigers have made a comeback since the collapse of their population in the 1940s, where no more than 40 individuals could be found in the wild. The largest tiger subspecies were brought back from the brink of extinction only with persistent conservation efforts and a ban on tiger hunting. Now, Vladik will join the rest of the 480-540 Amur tigers in the wilderness of Russia’s Far East.
Meanwhile, WWF-Russia continues to work on increasing the number of prey resources in selected tiger areas and prevent epidemic diseases. Tiger wandering is usually caused by a lack of prey base or due to a natural process of dispersal. Measures to take care of the tiger’s prey population is necessary to avoid tigers straying into the city in future.
On 15th May 2017, Vladik was released into the wild with the best wishes from all of us. The Minister of Natural Resources of Russia Sergey Donskoy personally oversaw this release.
With the support of WWF-Russia and the Amur Tiger Center, Vladik ran free into the wilderness in the upper part of Bikin River, where the territory is perfect for a young male tiger like Vladik.
The value of a tiger in the wild is tremendous, making every effort in this process worthwhile. He was radio-collared and we hope to receive data from him soon.
We have lost over 96% of wild tigers in the last century, but we are slowly recovering their population. Through Tx2 – the global commitment to double the world’s wild tigers by 2022 – WWF is driving innovative efforts with tiger-range governments to safeguard this endangered species.