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One Step Forward, One Step Back For Russia's Siberian Tigers

Siberian tigers face threats not only to their habitat but from poachers as well.
Siberian tigers face threats not only to their habitat but from poachers as well.
On April 18, a Chinese woman was detained on the Russian border in the Far Eastern region of Primorye with three Siberian tiger legs.

According to the press service of the local branch of the World Wildlife Fund, the legs (two from an adult male, the other from a young male or adult female) were hidden beneath her clothes.

At least four Siberian tigers have been killed in the past two weeks, Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency added, citing local law enforcement and customs officers. The population of Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, in Russia's Primorye and Khabarovsk regions reportedly numbers up to 450 animals.

The report said that the tiger legs were "treated in a traditional Chinese method," implying that they were meant to be used for traditional Chinese medicine. Tiger bones and claws are used for various remedies, with powdered bone prepared as "tiger wine," an especially popular treatment for rheumatic pain, ulcers, malaria, and burns.

Poaching continues to be a threat to attempts to preserve the subspecies in southeastern Russian and northeastern China.

But as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) reports, Russia on April 9 declared the merger of three existing natural reserves in the region into what has been dubbed the "Land of the Leopard" national park. The park will not only be a boon to the Siberian tiger but to the even-more-endangered Far Eastern (Amur) leopard subspecies, thought to number less than 40.

"We commend the Russian government for their foresight in creating this new protected area, and we are optimistic that it will provide a critical refuge for some of the most endangered big cats on the planet," WCS Russia Program Director Dale Miquelle said.

With this good news, one can only hope the tigers fare better than the poor beast that allegedly met its end for the benefit of a photo-op for once-and-future Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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