In Russia, what dictator Vladimir Putin wants, Vladimir Putin gets. The increasingly erratic Russian leader is known to have a soft spot for the endangered Amur tigers, which call Russia home. These tigers are continuing their comeback in Russia’s Far East.
According to a new census, there may now be over 540, including just under a hundred cubs. Ten years ago there were just 420 a decade ago while in the 1940s, the species nearly went extinct with a population below 40.
The large tigers, the largest of their species, weigh up to 660 lbs yet still remain endangered. Poaching remains the greatest threat to wild tigers today, with parts of their body in high demand throughout Asia, particularly China, which notoriously disregards wildlife trafficking laws. The parts are used in quack medicine.
The most recent census was organized by the Russian government, with support from the Amur Tiger Center and the WWF. More than 5,792 sq miles was covered in the research, which involved a few thousand field specialists who used GPS, satellite navigators, and camera traps.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, known for having a soft spot for big cats, has supported efforts to protect Amur tigers. Through harsher punishments and the introduction of criminal charges for the hunting, storage, and trafficking of endangered animals and their parts within Russia have aided the tigers’ comeback. Russia is also working with China to relax some border controls in order to give the cats more space to roam.
“The key is strong political support,” said Mike Baltzer, who leads the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative. “Where we have it, in countries like Russia and India, we are seeing tremendous results. By contrast, tiger populations in Southeast Asia are dwindling due to weaker political support.”