By Vicky Flynn
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) has made an emergency grant to ensure that rare Amur tigers are kept fed and away from conflict with humans in the Russian Far East this winter. But the money won’t be used to dish out food directly to the tigers but to buy forage for the wild boar that make up fifty per cent of the big cats’ diet.
The worst floods in 50 years and a shortage of acorns and cedar nuts in the Anyuisky National Park, which is home to about 20 rare Amur tigers, has meant that the predators’ favourite food is struggling to survive.
“The autumn flood water saturated the land and froze solid making it almost impossible for wild boar to forage,” explains DSWF CEO, Sally Case. “What food they can find is low in nutrients and boar and other ungulates are struggling to fatten up for the harsh winter ahead where average temperatures plummet to an icy -40°C. The grant will buy 80 tons of forage, enough to feed the boars for the next four months.”
A tiger without enough food is a dangerous animal. Not only could hunger lead to starvation but it also drives tigers closer to human settlements in search of easy prey which in turn leads to the killing of livestock and domestic animals and retaliatory action.
Reports of several dogs being attacked by a tiger in one Russian village have already made the Russian newspapers and led to the authorities trying to scare the animal away. If that fails, attempts will be made to capture the tiger and move it to a rehabilitation centre.
“Our aim is to ensure that these magnificent and highly endangered tigers remain wild and free,” adds Sally Case. “The last thing we want is for retaliatory actions to lead to the loss of a tiger. With only about 450 Amur tigers left in the wild, every animal is vital for the species survival.”
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation has been supporting Amur tiger conservation in the Russian Far East for almost 20 years and was part of the international coalition of NGOs and government agencies that saved the species from certain extinction in the 1990s. In 2011 DSWF launched TigerTime a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of the tiger and to call for an end in the illegal trade of tiger parts from all sources.