- On December 9, researchers photographed Zolushka in Bastak reserve with two small cubs huddled underneath her.
- Zolushka was a test case for conservation, having been raised in captivity and then released into a reserve that had been previously devoid of tigers for the past 40 years.
- Discovery of Zolushka’s cubs is a watershed event not just for Zolushka, but for the entire population of Amur tigers, experts say.
In Russia’s Far East, an Amur (or Siberian) tiger named Zolushka has given birth to two cubs in the wild. Zolushka — Russian for Cinderella — was rescued as a starving four-month old cub by hunters, raised in captivity, and then released into Russia’s Bastak Nature Reserve in 2013, forests that had been devoid of tigers for the past 40 years.
“This is a watershed event not just for Zolushka, but for the entire population of Amur tigers,” WCS Russia Director Dale Miquelle, said in a statement. “These births mark the return of tigers to habitat that had been lost, and the beginnings of a recovery and expansion of the last remaining Amur tiger population into habitat lost years ago.”
Zolushka was a test case for conservation. After being raised in the Aleksayevka Rehabilitation Center for a year, 20-month old Zalushka was released into the forests of Bastak reserve in May 2013. At the time of her release, Zolushka was the only known tiger in the reserve.
However, a lone male tiger arrived soon, according to the statement, reportedly after a 200 kilometer (~124 miles) hike from the northern-most portions of current tiger range in Russia.
Researchers found tracks of both Zolushka and the male tiger in the reserve. Then on December 9, Ivan Podkolnokov, the reserve inspector responsible for monitoring Zolushka, managed to photograph and film the tigress with two small cubs.
“The story of this Cinderella is no fairy tale,” Cristián Samper, WCS President and CEO, said in the statement. “The discovery of Zolushka’s cubs is real proof that conservation on the ground, conducted by groups working in partnership, can and does work. Zolushka and her cubs are proof that tiger habitat lost long ago is coming back in the Russian Far East.”