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Endangered Species: The Amur tiger

File photo // Flickr

File photo // Flickr


By Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter
Thursday, September 12, 2013, 11:38

This article was written in partnership with the Amur Tiger and Leopard Alliance (ALTA),  a coalition of 15 international and Russian NGOs. These funding and implementing agencies have been co-operating for many years in developing, financing and implementing conservation projects in Russia and China, all aimed at preserving the Amur leopard and tiger. More information can be found on the ALTA website.

Formerly referred to as the Siberian tiger, the Amur tiger is one of the world's largest cats and is only found in the Russian Far East, with a small number ranging across the border into China and sometimes North Korea.

In the 1940s, the Amur tiger was on the brink of extinction with a wild population of less than fifty -- but by 1947, Russia became the first country to ban tiger hunting and offer tigers full protection. In spite of this, poaching, forest fires, human development and a lack of political commitment continue to put this species at risk.

This skilled hunter can reach a top speed of 80 kph. Before humans invented weapons and began to encroach upon their territory, the Amur tiger had no predators.

Amur tiger cub at the Philadelphia Zoo. Courtesy: Art G. // Flickr

Amur tiger cub at the Philadelphia Zoo. Courtesy: Art G. // Flickr

Biology

Amur tigers typically live 10-15 years in the wild, and closer to 20 years in captivity.

The average weight for males is 160-190 kg, while females are smaller, at 110-130 kg.

The Amur tiger coat colour is a lighter orange than other tiger sub-species, and becomes even more so in winter. Their coat is longer and thicker than other tiger sub-species because of the colder climate they reside in. It has a thick mane around the neck and extra fur on their paws, which protects them against the cold.

Conservation efforts

The Amur tiger population is starting to recover, thanks to intensive conservation efforts.

Although the population in Russia has remained relatively stable at between 400 and 500 individuals over the past two decades, Amur tigers are still classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and their future is by no means secure.

The work that has brought them back from the brink of extinction must continue to ensure they do not find themselves in the same situation again.

According to the International Tiger Studbook, there are currently over 600 Amur tigers currently living in captivity. Most are in Europe and North America and the vast majority are part of conservation breeding programs that fall under the Global Species Management Program. This program is a joint effort between North American, European and Japanese regional conservation programs.

This global level of management helps ensure the entire existing tiger population is being managed as effectively as possible, while enabling a greater degree of cooperation between regions.

  • Donate to a cause like ALTA
  • Say no to Mongolian oak. Mongolian oaks are predominantly found in amur tiger habitats -- but they're a target for illegal loggers. Bark from the tree is often used to make hardwood floors, kitchen tables and chairs and other household goods for the western world, but many of these products are created using trees that have been cut down illegally. The WWF estimates that about 30% of all Russian forests have been illegally exploited. 



Next week, we'll be visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens to learn about endangered plant species in Canada.

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