Saving The Tiger In Russia


Published: May - 2004

Even the least enthusiastic supporters of sporthunting reluctantly concede that it is perhaps the most effective international mechanism for the conservation of wildlife. The question is, how far would hunters be willing to travel to further prove that point? Would we settle for hunting deer and boar in tiger country, if that hunting aided in the survival of the great cat -- even though we would probably never be able to hunt a tiger? Such an opportunity may soon be available in eastern Russia, home of the Amur tiger.

Commonly referred to as the Siberian tiger, the Amur tiger numbers less than 400, almost all of them found in the Russian Far East province of Primorsky, lying between the Republic of China and the Sea of Japan. The area also holds the last remaining population of the even more perilously endangered Far Eastern leopard. Only some seven percent of the tiger's habitat is currently protected by the Russian government. Outside parks and preserves, the tigers compete with more than 40,000 registered Russian hunters for the available wild boar and red, sika and roe deer. Many local hunters naturally view tigers as a threat to the game they count on for food, income and recreation, and at least one percent admits they would kill a tiger if the chance arose. The rather chilling math is that one percent of 40,000 works out to be 400, equaling the number of tigers.

During the Soviet era, the hunting areas were controlled and protected by the state. The dark side of that protection was, the citizenry had no stake in state property, and so felt entitled to poach and plunder as much as they could get away with. With the collapse of the USSR, the state-hunting operations were abolished, and the huntable land, covering almost all of Primorsky province, was divided into more than 100 leases, operated and managed by an assortment of private businesses, hunter organizations and collectives. It is now the local people's responsibility to manage the game, non-game and endangered species on their leases.

The present........(continued)

 
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