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Siberian tigers hang tough

(Vladivostok, Russia) -- Results of the latest full range survey indicate that tiger numbers in Russia appear to be stable, say the coordinators of a 2005 winter effort to count the animals, led by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society. After a massive winter endeavor to determine distribution and abundance of tigers in the Russian Far East, the last stronghold of Siberian tigers, researchers report that approximately 334-417 adult tigers remain in the region, along with 97-112 cubs. While stressing that results are preliminary, the news is welcome relief to tiger conservationists around the world, who have seen spiraling decreases in tiger numbers in other parts of Asia. The announcement also comes just a few months after WCS conservationists learned the Olga, a 14-year-old Siberian tiger had been killed by poachers, after scientists had been continuously monitoring her whereabouts from more than a decade.

To determine numbers of tigers in this remote, densely forested land, researchers sent out nearly one thousand fieldworkers to canvass the entire region where it is believed tigers could occur. Though wary of people, and seldom seen, tigers nonetheless leave evidence of their presence with their massive footprints in the snow. With some workers spending months in the field and covering over 21,000 km (13,000 miles) of transects by foot, ski, snowmobile, and car, over 4,100 tracks were recorded, most representing multiple tracks of a single individual. Researchers map out the location of all these tracks, and then estimate a minimum number of tigers, based on their size and distribution.

Dale Miquelle, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Russia Program, and overall coordinator for the project, remarked, "This tiger survey represents a milestone in cooperative, international conservation efforts, with full political support from both regional and national governmental bodies of the Russian Federation, as well as financia
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16-Jun-2005


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