The Amur tiger and the indigenous people of Russia’s far east coexisted peacefully for centuries. But in the early 1900s, during the building of the Chinese Eastern railroad, tigers in eastern Russia were hunted to near extinction.
A century ago, there were eight different subspecies of tiger — now only five kinds are left. And they’re all in danger of becoming extinct.
The tiger with the best chance of survival might be the Siberian, or Amur tiger — the biggest cat in the world. It lives in a harsh, remote habitat in the woodlands of Far Eastern Russia. The Amur is lucky. Its cousin, the Bengal tiger of India and Southeast Asia is getting crowded out by the ever-expanding human population. But eastern Russia is relatively unpopulated. And Amur tiger hunting was banned as early as 1947. In recent years, tiger poaching has been curbed by international cooperation.
Today there are thought to be about 500 Amur tigers left in the wild. The biggest threat to their survival is the logging industry. An adult male tiger needs about a thousand square kilometers — about 400 square miles — of territory. Cutting down large stretches of forest reduces the size and quality of the habitat — not just for the tiger, but also for its prey — wild boar and elk.
The Siberian Tiger Project wants to protect Amur tigers. Their strategy focuses on logging practices that protect forested corridors between tiger preserves.