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Siberian tiger crossing into China may soon return to Russia, expert says

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, November 21. /TASS/. A Siberian tiger released into the wild by Russian President Vladimir Putin may return to Russia from China when the Amur River freezes over, the head of a regional hunting department told Tass on Thursday.

In October the tiger, Kuzya, swam into China across the river forming much of the border between the two countries. According to GPS-collar data, the tiger was keeping close to the river as if waiting for it to freeze over, Valery Pogasienko said.

Pogasienko said he was sure that Kuzya, released into the wild in May, was safe and sound. “He is very cautious, staying away from Chinese villages and hiding on bald peaks of Lesser Khingan Range,” he said.

This is the first winter in the wild for Kuzya, freed by Putin along with two other tigers, Borya and Ilona. The two others stay in Russia and feel quite comfortable having enough prey. It was not hunger that made Kuzya wander across the Russian border into China, the expert said.

“Tigers are wonderers in their nature. They travel wherever they want to and no state borders exist for them,” Pogasienko said.

Kuzya was among five tiger cubs found in the Far-Eastern taiga some two years ago and taken to a special rehabilitation centre.

The Siberian tiger, also known as Amur tiger, is on the Red List of Threatened Species. In 2010, Russia launched a national strategy to protect the Siberian tiger, the largest of the five tiger species. According to World Wildlife Fund, some 450 Siberian tigers are left on the planet. The species has been driven almost to extinction in China.