MOSCOW, May 5. /TASS/. The Amur tiger, an endangered species mostly inhabiting Russia’s Far East, was selected as the mascot of the International Sambo Federation (FIAS), Vasily Shestakov, federation’s president, told TASS on Tuesday.
In an interview with TASS, Shestakov said that the relevant agreement was signed between the Executive Committee of FIAS and the Amur Tiger Center with the aim of popularization of the sport of Sambo and preservation as well as multiplication of the unique species of tigers.
"On the one hand, the agreement we signed will help us develop and popularize Sambo, and on the other hand, it will allow us to draw public attention to the need to preserve and increase the Amur tiger population," Shestakov said.
Sambo wrestling originated in Russia in 1920s, when soldiers of the then-Soviet Army developed their own hand-to-hand combat technique. The word Sambo is a Russian acronym, which stands for "self-defense without weapons."
"Sambo is the sport training people in self-defense and the skills to provide protection for those who need it," Shestakov said. "The FIAS Executive Committee has unanimously approved an initiative of giving support to the population of the Amur tiger and also turning it into the symbol and the mascot of the federation."
"It [the Amur tiger] will not be only a symbol of success for all Sambo wrestlers of the world, but will also serve as an additional impetus to protection of animals and environment," the FIAS president said adding he hoped that other international sports federations would follow the pattern and start taking care of Red Book endangered species.
According to last year’s expert estimates, the population of the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) in Russia’s Far Eastern Khabarovsk and Primorsky territories did not exceed 450 to 500 animals and about 40 tigers usually fall victim to poachers every year.
Considering the shortness of the tigers’ lifespan in the wild, which is about 15 years, these very rare animals, which are included in the world’s Red Book of Endangered Species, are faced with a risk of full extinction in the Far East.
A national program for protection of the Amur tiger was adopted in Russia in 2010 after the country had hosted a ‘tiger summit’ - an international forum devoted to the ways of preserving tigers as a biological species.
Apart from Russia, another twelve countries on the territories of which the tigers make habitats took an obligation to endorse similar national programs.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in 2013 tightening punishments for the killing and trafficking of rare and exotic feline species, including the Amur tiger. Under its provisions, the previous practice of issuing administrative penalties along with awarding criminal punishments has been dropped. Killing a tiger has turned into an offense punishable under criminal law only.
During his visit to the Amur Region in May last year, Putin released three male and two female tiger cubs, Borya, Kuzya, Ustin, Svetlaya and Ilona respectively at the Zhelundinsky nature and wildlife reserve.
The cubs were found starving in the Ussuri Taiga about in 2012. They were taken to a rehabilitation and reintroduction center in the Primorye Territory, where they received medical treatment and were taught how to hunt for their prey and live in the wild.
In September of 2009, Putin, who personally controls protection of rare animals and regularly takes part in relevant events, visited the Sochi preserve in Russia’s south and released into the cage two male leopards from Turkmenistan. In 2010, Putin was there again and released into a more spacious cage one of two female leopards brought from Iran.
In February 2014, Putin visited the Sochi preserve once again and went inside a cage with a small leopard. The president managed to find a common language with the predator, but some journalists failed to do so, which resulted in a few scratches for them.
"I like animals, I apparently feel them," the president told journalists after his visit with the leopard in the cage. "We liked each other.".