The Siberian Tiger - A Cat that Deserves Respect
The critically endangered and incredibly beautiful Amur Tiger is a rare subspecies of P. tigris. It is also known as the Siberian, Korean, Manchurian and North China Tiger and it once populated these areas in large numbers. In fact, its territories stretched across the Korean Peninsula, northeastern China, southeastern Russia and northeastern Mongolia as late as the early 1900s. However its numbers have been sharply declining over the years and today it is largely confined to a small section of the Russian Far East where it is actively protected. Some tigers can still be found in North Korea and Manchuria, but these numbers are extremely low. The most distinctive feature of the Amur Tiger is its immense size. It is the largest natural cat in the feline family.
The Siberian Tiger populations in Russia are generally confined to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorye and Khabarovsk where both the tiger and the Amur Leopard are actively protected. Conservation efforts were set in motion when tiger populations were as low as 150 wild Amur tigers and at the time there were fears of potentially devastating inbreeding. However, diligent conservation efforts by Russian wildlife authorities have resulted in a successful revival of the species. In 1992, there were 250 Amur Tigers in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains – a number which had increased by only 100 by 2004. By the end of the last decade, the numbers were as high as 500. Unfortunately, a large number of cubs are killed on a road which crosses through the tiger’s territory. Fortunately, the illegal poaching which once posed such a great threat to the survival of the species has not been brought under control.
The average male Siberian Tiger weighs about 225 kilograms while the tigress weighs only about 160 kilograms. The largest captive Amur tiger measured an astonishing 3.7 meters in length and weight 423 kilograms. These dimensions give the Amur tiger the distinction of being the largest natural member of the cat family. The Amur tiger also has paler fur than other tigers and its stripes are dark brown instead of black. It generally feeds on animals such as wild boar, sika deer, roe deer and goral but will also make use of smaller prey if necessary. It seldom attacks humans and has been known to occasionally kill and eat bears. Today there are quite large numbers of Amur Tigers in captivity – many of which are used to keep the gene pool stable and healthy. There are currently 160 Amur Tigers which are used in the Species Survival Plan which has been used to revive the species from the brink of extinction quite successfully and which can be used as a model for the revival of other critically endangered species. Thankfully conservations efforts are still very much in progress and with any luck, the species will continue to enjoy a successful revival.