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Grigory Pasko: Saving the Tigers of the Amur

pasko1123109.jpgJust a few days ago in Russia, a census of the population of the Amur tiger began in the Far East. The monitoring of the quantity of the animals will go on until the end of February, and towards the middle of March of the year 2010, scientists and ecologists intend to get new data on the quantity of Amur tigers in Russia. The previous count took place in the year 2005. Then the number of Amur tigers in the region comprised 550 individuals.

Two individuals – the gorgeous male Almaz and his girlfriend Nyurka I have seen with my own eyes. Up close. An arm’s length away. No, no, I didn’t try to pet the kitties, although the chain link fence separating us did not impede this.

The matter was in the village of Gayvoron of Primorsky Kray. This is
nearly three hundred kilometres from Vladivostok, not far from the
protected zone of lake Khanka. There is found the compound of a
scientist – fellow of the biologico-soil institute of the DVO RAN [Far
Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences–Trans.
] Viktor Yudin.

pasko2123109.jpgYudin is well known not only in the Far East. Even foreign journalists
travel to him, to take an interview and have a look at his fosterlings,
of whom in years past there were up to seven individuals. Today under
the supervision of Viktor Yudin and his wife Elena Vasilievna are two
tigers: Almaz and Nyurka. From May through September there was also a
wild tiger cub. He’d been picked up in the forest after poachers had
killed a mother-tigress. When the cub picked up strength, they let him
go, having first put a radio collar on him.

Tigers have been living at Yudin’s for a long time. A special
enclosure has been built for them. It is an understandable matter that
they can’t be released: having unlearned how to hunt, in the taiga they
will simply die. In conditions of relative captivity they are found
under the watchful eye of people. And feed with the help of people. It
goes without saying that little money is allocated by the state. But
tigers eat a lot – a minimum of 8 kg of meat per day per individual.
How does Yudin get out of the situation? Once, as an example, he
uncovered two cows that had frozen to death after having strayed from a
farmer’s herd. On his own, as they say, hunched back he brought them to
the compound and fed them to the tigers.

pasko3123109.jpg…I dropped by to visit the Yudins and their charges on a weekend.
Already from the morning there were many visitors. Adults and children
viewed the Amur tigers with interest, acquired little calendars and
photographs with their «portraits» – the money from the proceeds of
these simple souvenirs go for the purchase of food for the animals.

How do tigers appear at Yudin’s? There was such an incident. Around
three at night an unknown person phoned up and said that if Yudin
doesn’t come for a tiger cub with money and a bottle of vodka, then the
cub will be sold to the Chinese.

Viktor Georgievich drove off and
brought the tiger cub back to his compound. When the nursling grew a
little older, they took him away to a zoo.

…A few days ago I phoned Viktor Georgievich. «Things are normal
here, – said he cheerfully, – the tigers are alive, wild cats, a lynx,
bears – also within spec».

I congratulated the Yudins with the upcoming holidays and wished them
all health in the new year – the year of the Tiger on the Chinese
calendar.

Photos: Viktor Yudin, Nyurka and Almaz (photos by Grigory Pasko)

Editor’s postscript: Perhaps some of our readers may be interested in finding out more about Viktor Yudin and his work with the rare and endangered Amur tigers. Not surprisingly, he does not have internet access. The official name of the sanctuary is Permanent Observation Facility of the Biologico-Soil Institute of the Far-Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (стационар Биолого-Почвенного института Дальневосточного отделения Российской академии наук (БПИ ДВО РАН)), and the postal address is Russian Federation 692215, Primorsky Kray, Spassky Rayon, village of Gayvoron, Yudin Viktor Grigorievich (Российская Федерация 692215, Приморский край, Спасский район, село Гайворон, Юдину Виктору Григорьевичу).