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Tiger cubs released by Putin into wild adapt well to Far East environment

Three male and two female tiger cubs, Borya, Kuzya, Ustin, Svetlaya and Ilona, were released into the wild in May

VLADIVOSTOK, June 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Three tiger cubs released by Russian President Vladimir Putin into the wild in Russia’s Far East this May following their rehabilitation are adapting to the natural environment and exploring new territories, the press service of the project’s coordinating organization reported on Friday.

Three male and two female tiger cubs, Borya, Kuzya, Ustin, Svetlaya and Ilona, were found starving in the Ussuri Taiga about two years ago. The cubs 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.

President Putin earlier allocated 15 million rubles (over $435,500) for that program from the reserve fund of the head of state.

During his May 22 visit to the Amur Region, located also in the Far East, the Russian president released cubs Borya, Kuzya and Ilona at the Zhelundinsky nature and wildlife reserve.

According to the organization press service’s report on Friday, the released cubs were tracked some 80 kilometers (some 50 miles) from the place where they were left on their own. The tigers, which wear satellite collars enabling to keep constant track of their movement, are hunting raccoons, badgers, roe deer and wild boars.

The official website of the Amur Tiger Program reported in late May that the other two tiger cubs, Svetlaya and Ustin, would be released into the wild soon.


Endangered species

Experts say the population of the Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) in the Khabarovsk and Primorsky territories does not exceed 450 to 500 animals, and about 40 tigers fall victim to poachers every year.

Considering short tigers’ lifespan in the wild, about 15 years, these very rare animals, included in the world’s Red Book of Endangered Species, face 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.

President Putin signed a law tightening punishments for killing and trafficking 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.

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.

This February Putin visited the Sochi preserve once again and went inside a cage with a small leopard. The president managed to find 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.