The Wildlife Conservation Society's Russia Program, in partnership with the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park, released a camera trap slideshow of a family of Amur tigers in the wild showing an adult male with family. Shown following the "tiger dad" along the Russian forest is an adult female and three cubs. Scientists note this is a first in terms of photographing this behavior, as adult male tigers are usually solitary. Also included was a photo composite of a series of images showing the entire family as they walked past the a camera trap over a period of two minutes.
WCS Russia Director Dr. Dale Miquelle said, "Although WCS's George Schaller documented sporadic familial groups of Bengal tigers as early as the 1960s, this is the first time such behavior has been photographed for Amur tigers in the wild. These photos provide a small vignette of social interactions of Amur tigers, and provide an evocative snapshot of life in the wild for these magnificent animals."
The photos resulted from a 2014-2015 project establishing a network of camera traps across both Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park (adjacent protected areas). The goal of the effort is to gain a better understanding about the number of endangered Amur tigers in the region. Although results are still being examined, the biggest surprise was a remarkable series of 21 photographs that showed the entire family of tigers passing the same camera trap (cameras activated by motion) in the span of two minutes.
Svetlana Soutyrina, a former WCS Russia employee and currently the Deputy Director for Scientific Programs at the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve, set these camera traps and conveyed her elation at the discovery: "We have collected hundreds of photos of tigers over the years, but this is the first time we have recorded a family together. These images confirm that male Amur tigers do participate in family life, at least occasionally, and we were lucky enough to capture one such moment."
The exact population size of Amur tigers is difficult to estimate. Every ten years an ambitious, range-wide survey is conducted that involves hundreds of scientists, hunters, and volunteers. The results of the most recent of these surveys, undertaken in February 2015, will be released by summer. In 2005, the last time a range-wide survey of Amur tigers was conducted, it was estimated there were 430-500 tigers estimated remaning in the wild. The WCS Russia Program plays a critical role in monitoring tigers and their prey species in the Russian Far East and minimizing potential conflicts between tigers and human communities. WCS works to save tiger populations and their remaining habitat in nine range countries across Asia.
This program has been supported by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, the Columbus Zoo Conservation Fund, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Rhinoceros & Tiger Conservation Fund, the AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan's Tiger Conservation Campaign, and the US Forest Service International Programs.
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