Last week there were reports from farmers that their livestock had been attacked by Siberian tigers. This is not an unusual happening, but it is an increasing cause for concern among conservationists.
China News Agency reports that this is the fourth occurrence of livestock being attacked by a wild Siberian tiger in the Huanan forest zone of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province in the last few weeks. Moreover, Chinese media has recently reported that locals in the area are becoming increasingly worried about the increasingly volatile nature of the tigers in the region. Although there have been no human fatalities, many locals are scared.
Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, have always rambled through the bordering forests of China, Russia and Siberia. There was little to fear for the tigers until the area became more industrialized in recent decades. With more people, came more poachers.
A 1930s census revealed that only 20 to 30 Siberian tigers were in the area. However, with the implementation of Russia legislative regulations the situation improved. The hunting ban worked. The Siberian tiger population has grown since the thirties, and today it is believed that up to 500 wild Siberian tigers exist.
In terms of conservation of the Siberian tiger this is positive news, but many challenges remain. Namely the fact that, if tiger numbers are to increase, humans will have to find a way to live alongside them.
Deputy Director at the Heilongjiang Provincial Wildlife Research Institute, Sun Haiyi, believes that today’s attack is indicative of the Siberian tiger moving closer to the inland from the East Wandashan Mountain area and the Russian border.Another concern is the Siberian tiger’s feeding habits. If any wild tigers start to depend on attacking livestock then there is the possibility that they could lose their fear of humans.
So what is the solution? There is no easy answer. Ultimately people have their lives and livelihood to protect- but the survival of this remarkable species still hangs in the balance. Authorities will have to investigate ways to manage local tiger populations, and at the same time educate the people in the region that will increasingly encounter them.
By Paula Pennant