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Tiger killer sentenced in the Russian Far East

13 november 2012
Primorye citizen Alexandr Belyaev is required to pay around 18,500 USD for intentional killing of an Amur tiger. WWF experts helped to uncover the truth in this complicated incident.

On 13 November 2012 a judge in the Khasansky district of Primorsky Province found Belyaev guilty in intentional killing of an Amur tiger and sentenced him to one year and 2 months of disciplinary labor. Besides the criminal punishment Belyaev must compensate the damage in the amount of around 18,500 USD for killing an endangered species included the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. Moreover, the criminal was deprived of the right to hunt and his firearm was confiscated. WWF considers the sentence to be just.

At first the incident was regarded as a classic tiger attack on a human. Alexandr Belyaev categorically stated that a tiger sprang on him unexpectedly, and that he was forced to defend himself with a gun. But the investigation done on the site and the criminal expertise conducted by the Hunting Department and WWF have revealed how the forest tragedy happened in reality. The court was presented with absolute evidences of … a human attack on a tiger.

It became clear that Belyaev, pursuing a roe deer, noticed a tiger on a nearby slope. The tiger was at a long distance and showed no aggression. But the hunter opened fire. Three bullets hit the target. The heavily wounded tiger did not turn on the man but tried to  escape.

“We have met this male when doing annual winter tiger monitoring. It was never regarded as a “conflict” tiger, comments on the situation Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF Russia Amur branch.

“Expertise of its dead body proved that the tiger was satiated and well-nourished. And a healthy and well-fed tiger never attacks a human if it is not wounded or threatened.”   

More than four times the animal lay down, leaving the stains of his blood on the leaves and on the snow. Then he rose again and tried to run away from the hunter. But the man did not stop the pursuit. Finally, the exhausted and bleeding predator hid behind a tree. The poacher approached the animal at close proximity. But even at that time the tiger did not attack, but tried again to run away. Belyaev took another shot. After that the tiger turned around and faced his attacker. If he was not wounded and strong, one hit of his powerful paw would be enough to lay low the aggressor. But the tiger was already weak and all he could do was scratch Belyaev’s face and… break the phalangeal bone of one finger on his right hand.   

 “In the course of the investigation we did not go out of our way to absolve the tiger of guilt and blame an innocent man. In such investigations we give the benefit of the doubt to the human, which is why we tried so thoroughly to investigate all the details and determine the real situation”, - says Sergei Aramilev, PhD, the Species program coordinator at the WWF Russia Amur branch. – “But I’m glad that a guilty verdict for tiger killers in Russia is becoming the norm. The principle of unavoidability of punishment works. This is the third guilty verdict in the past three years. For comparison, in the period since the collapse of the USSR to 2009 only one guilty verdict was imposed. All the rest of the poachers managed to evade responsibility that time”.

Two year old incident: thanks to operative measures of the staff of the Wildlife and Hunting Department of Primorsky Province and WWF experts a tiger killed on 15 November was found right the other day...
© WWF Russia / Sergei Aramilev
A guilty verdict for killing a rare cat was announced just two days before the expiration of the prosecution period
© WWF Russia / Sergei Aramilev