Siberian tiger cub from Putin’s conservation program shot ‘point blank’

© Mathieu Belanger
A tiger cub, part of Russian Vladimir President Putin’s wildlife conservation program, has been shot “point blank” in Russia’s Far East.

The cub was discovered by a group of bicycle tourists 8 kilometers from a village in the southern part of Khabarovsky Krai. The incident found its way into the media only on Sunday.

The tourists assumed the animal was a cub because of its small size: by its look, only 1.2 meters long and weighing some 50 kilograms. Typically Siberian tigers weigh 160-270 kilograms and are 2-3 meters long.

The tiger had been killed shortly before being found by the tourists, as they said its body was still warm. The witnesses believe it was killed with case-shot, as it had several gunshot wounds and its face had been smashed.

The tourists were unable to report the incident straight away as they had no cell phones and hurried to leave for fear the cub’s mother might be nearby. When they returned the next day they failed to find the body – it had disappeared.

“The cub must have been learning to hunt and jumped out onto the road. People who saw it must have been taken by surprise and fired shots,” Yevgeny, a witness, told Kommersant daily. “We saw a logging Kamaz [lorry] 3 kilometer away and think the tiger was killed by loggers because they were the only people in the area. Although, of course, it might have been killed by poachers.”

Siberian tigers are very rare. Their habitat lies in the border region between Russia and China. In the 1940s, there were only about 30-40 Siberian tigers left, but due to the efforts of the state and ecologists, their numbers have risen to 500.

The Amur tigers conservation program started in 2008 as an initiative of Putin’s. The fund targets poachers, and aims to double the tiger population over the next decade.