Two Chinese fishermen got the catch of their lives…on mobile phone this week. While fishing in the Ussuri River, which acts as a border between Russia and China, the fishermen were approached by a swimming Siberian tiger. These tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are down to around 350-500 animals.
At first the brothers thought the animal was a deer. But when they got closer they realized it was something much more spectacular: a Siberian tiger, the world’s largest feline. At one point the big cat even attempted to board their boat.
“The tiger then put his claws on our boat. I was frightened back to the rear of the boat,” the younger brother, Zhang Mingyu, told China View. “My older brother told me to push it off the boat, so I used a pole to push it away. The animal didn’t dare come close to our boat again.”
The brothers watched at the tiger made its way to the shore and left its footprints in the mud. Experts have since confirmed that the animal was indeed a Siberian tiger. The animal was crossing from Bolshekhekhtsirsky Nature Reserve in Russia to Sanjiang Wetlands Nature Reserve in China. Siberian tigers were absent from Chinese forests for decades, but are now increasingly returning.
Siberian tigers are imperiled by habitat loss and deforestation, however the biggest threat remains poaching for the animal’s body parts which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The subspecies almost went extinct in the 1930s when its population dropped to just 20-30 individuals. Due to this, a 2011 study found that Siberian tiger genetic diversity in the wild was incredibly low, essentially putting the “effective population” at just 14 animals.
Male Siberian tiger in the Leipzig Zoo. The world’s biggest cats, these are the only tigers that have adapted to extreme cold and snow. Photo by: Appaloosa/Creative Commons 3.0.
(05/28/2013) The Russian Far East is one of the wildest places on Earth: where giant tigers roam snow-covered forests and the world’s biggest owls stalk frozen rivers. Bordering northern China and North Korea, the forests of Primorye are known for the diversity of habitats, including coastal forests along the Sea of Japan, vast coniferous forests in the Sikhote-Alin mountains, and even steppe. These diverse ecosystems also makes the forests a hotspot for endangered species, including Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), Blakiston’s fish owls (Bubo blakistoni), and one of the world’s rarest big cats, Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis), which number only 30-50 animals.
(04/09/2013) In the remote Russian far east, amid pine forests and long winters, a great cat may be beginning to make a recovery. A new survey estimates that the Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) population has risen to as many as 50 individuals. While this may not sound like much, it’s a far cry from the a population that may have fallen to just 25 animals. Sporting the heaviest coat of any leopard, the Amur leopard largely hunts hoofed animals, such as deer and boar, in a forest still ruled by the Siberian tiger.
(02/07/2013) The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Siberian tiger, is the world’s biggest cat. An adult male weighs on average about 390 pounds (176 kilograms). The largest yet recorded weighed 460 pounds (207 kilograms), although there are reports of considerably larger animals in the past.
(04/25/2012) Camera traps have captured rare images of Amur or Siberian tigers in China.
(04/13/2012) Russia has created a massive national park to protect some of the world’s rarest big cats, the critically endangered Amur tigers and leopards, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).