Saving The Amur Tiger
The Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, has been a species on the brink of extinction for the majority of its recent history. While the range of tigers was fairly sizable in the late nineteenth century, comprising the entire Korean peninsula, large portions of China, and sections of Russia, a combination of factors led to a frightening decline in their numbers over a short period of time. By the late 1930s, demand for tiger parts in China as well a decline in wild boar populations (a primary food source) nearly pushed the tiger to extinction at just 20 to 30 individuals.
In response, Russian authorities took “radical measures” to restore the population in 1956, including banning the capture of cubs. Over time their population rose, dwindled, and then increased again. By 1979, the tigers were estimated to number between 192 and 195 individuals within 97,150 square kilometers in one region of Russia. Between 1995 and 1996, their range in this region increased to 123,000 square kilometers, and their range throughout the Far East of Russia expanded to 156,000 square kilometers. At that time their numbers also increased to a maximum population density of between 415 and 476 individuals.
This article provides a timeline of the Amur tiger’s fluctuating population and the associated ranges they have occupied since the turn of the twentieth century. The authors also make some conservation suggestions. Noting that the tiger’s population density seems to have reached a maximum within the types of reserves available, the authors contend that small reserves cannot accommodate the number of individuals necessary to ensure the species’ long-term conservation. Rather, a system of large and interconnected reserves, including protected areas, is necessary. The only way to establish such a system is to create two new protected areas in the south of the Far East of Russia. Additionally, the authors recommend funding for the protection of ungulates, a main source of food for the tigers.
Through a case study of the Amur tiger, the authors of this article demonstrate the importance of not only habitat preservation but of a web of interconnected species that support each other’s existence. Amur tiger conservation efforts have been ongoing for nearly a century now, and we are still seeking strategies to keep the population healthy and thriving.