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Премия рунета 2017

Tiger school of life has no breaks

29 october 2018
Half a month ago the tigress Kazachka was transported to the zoo in the Zelenogorsk, but her two cubs, Marta and Zaika*, remained in Primorye in the Rehabilitation Centre “Tigr”. WWF Russia and the Centre’s staff keep observing over her offspring learning the life lessons.

Half a month ago the tigress Kazachka was transported to the zoo in the Zelenogorsk, but her two cubs, Marta and Zaika*, remained in Primorye in the Rehabilitation Centre “Tigr”. WWF Russia and the Centre’s staff keep observing over her offspring learning the life lessons.

* Such names were given to the cubs during their capture in February 2018. Most likely the names will be changed later.

© Rehabilitaiton Centre "Tigr". the Amur Tiger Centre, WWF-Russia

The tiger cubs cannot be called orphans. According to Ekaterina Blidchenko, the vet of the Rehabilitation Centre, the tiger cubs’ reaction on the departure of the mother-tigress was quite smooth. Separation from the tigress brought the cubs closer to each other, and they started to spend more time together, however, earlier Marta preferred to be in the company of the mother.

The life of tiger cubs in the enclosures of the Rehabilitation Centre started in March 2018, when their mother was captured near Alexei-Nikolskoye village and put to the Centre.  At first they were placed separately in neighboring enclosures. For family reunion it was necessary to get the results of analysis. During this time Kazachka was communicating to the cubs through the fence. At first, her attitude towards the cubs was strange. It looked like they were not her cubs. Maybe it could be caused by stress? After the tests confirmed the mother was healthy and the tiger family could be placed in one enclosure of 1,2 hectares, the keepers opened door between the enclosures. The observers expected to witness the exiting moment of the animals’ reunion; but it did not happen. The tigress allowed one of the cubs to approach her while another one was long avoiding meetings with her mother and sister. Gradually, the stress was over and the relations between the animals warmed up. They became a happy family again.

Marta chasing a rabbit

“This is our first experience of capturing the whole tiger family. Observation over a striped trio is a unique chance to get valuable data about the biology of these animals. Earlier we could know about the relations within a tiger family by tracing them in the wild and finding evidences of their activities and later we received the information by images from camera traps. Now it is much easier – you can sit in a warm room and watch over the life of a magic animals on the screen,” comments Pavel Fomenko, head of rare species conservation unit at WWF Russia Amur branch.

The video is transmitted to the screens from the CCTV purchased with WWF support and placed inside the enclosures. As the Centre’s enclosures are vast fenced plots of forest sometimes the video system proves unequal to the task: the images are obscured by trees and often the most interesting things happen at night. That is why photo camera traps with video mode were fixed on the fenced perimeter.  It simplifies the search of the animals – and this is the first task of the keeper when he comes to the Centre in the morning – and help to make sure that everything is normal with the animals.  

Over the spring the cubs got noticeably bigger and stronger. They remain to be shy and spent most of the time in the bush. When hunting for ungulates, the mother took the initiative, and if the rabbits were inside the enclosure the young tigresses went “on the war-path” and did their best. After the successful hunt striped animals dragged the trophy to the bush to feast, and the whole family disappeared from the sight.

In early summer Kazachka with her daughters moved into a new flat – the enclosure occupied by Saikhan and the tiger from Lazo that were released back into the wild shortly before.  The striped family explored their new territory with great interest as the Centre’s keepers put there several rabbits. Right away once in 7-10 days a deer is put into the enclosure for the tigers to master their hunting skills which is vitally important in the further life un the wild. Though the tigers are around one year such a dietary regime – the frequency of hunting and a size of a prey – is designated for adult animals.

Ekaterina Blidchenko, a vet of the Rehabilitation Centre “TIGR”, has been observing the young animals from the very first days in the Centre. She is the first person to witness the unique scenes of the tigers’ life and to register the valuable scientific data which can hardly be received in the wild. She watches how they grow, get more experienced, and learn hunting skills.

“Right now the tiger-girls feel comfortable and demonstrate god hunting habits. Recently I watched them chasing a rabbit. The young tigress’ movements were well orchestrated and calculated which is very good for a one-year-old tiger cub. From my perspective, chasing prey is the most eye filling hunting element of the big cats’ behaviour. See for yourself”, notes Ekaterina Blidchenko.

Conservation of the Amur tiger in the Russian Far East is supported by the Amur Tiger Centre and WWF Russia. 

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