KHABAROVSK, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - Environmentalists are hoping China will look after Kuzya, the Amur tiger that has made its way to the country after being rehabilitated and released into the wild in Russia’s Amur Region, Vitaly Timchenko, Russian Environment Ministry head and director of the Special Inspection Tiger program, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
"Special Inspection Tiger was sent information from Rosprirodnadzor [the federal environment protection agency] that the tiger Kuzya has gone to China. The agency has contacts with similar services in China, and hopes our Chinese colleagues will ensure that the fate of the predator follows the framework of international cooperation," Timchenko told RIA Novosti.
According to environmentalists, Kuzya crossed the Amur River from Russia into China in early October. The tiger is one of five that was found in the far eastern taiga two years ago. The animals named Ustin, Svetlana, Borya, Ilona and Kuzya were cared for in tiger rehabilitation centers. On May 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin participated in the release of Kuzya, Borya, and Ilona into the wild. Both Borya and Ilona continue to live in the Amur Region where they were first fitted with satellite collars and released.
"The satellite captures the tigers' movement. We are seeing them mature and our employees monitor the animals' feeding habits and how they feel. Now, for example, they started shedding [their fur]. Ilona and Borya live within the Amur Region. Kuzya first went into the Jewish Autonomous Region, and then turned back, but did not approach us within 30 kilometers [18.6 miles], then crossed the river and entered China," Ivan Bolotsky, deputy head of the department for the protection, control and regulation of fauna in the Amur Region told RIA Novosti.
According to Bolotsky, the researchers receive information on the location of the tigers via satellite and then visit these areas to examine traces left by the animals.
In recent years, Russia has passed laws with harsher punishments for hunting, killing and selling rare wild cats, including the Amur tiger. In July 2010, Russia adopted a national strategy to conserve the Amur tiger and in the summer of 2013 under the initiative of Putin, the Russian Geographical Society established the Siberian (Amur) Tiger Center, an autonomous non-profit organization.
The Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, is listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Russia is the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection as populations of the animal have shrunk due to extensive poaching, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The endangered tigers' habitat is now restricted to the Sikhote-Alin range in the Primorsky and Khabarovsk provinces of the Russian Far East and areas bordering China and North Korea. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are some 450 Amur tigers left in the world.