La Province maritime du Primoryé (sud - est) de la Russie héberge une population croissante de tigres déjà très nombreux l'an dernier (environ 450 individus). Ceux ci sont présents dans l'ensemble des districts, à l'exception de celui de Khorol. Leur nombre va continuer à croître, les proies disponibles ayant elles mêmes une forte densité. Un point précis établi par Alexei Surovy.
Question: Why are more tigers and bears straying into human territory?
Alexei Surovy: First, their numbers are increasing. Second, poachers stopped hunting Himalayan and brown bears due to a lack of demand for their derivatives. (…) Another major reason is tree felling, which is damaging these animals’ habitat. Actually, bears often wandered into populated areas before, but people had fewer gadgets to report this. Now they take photos of stray bears and post them online, making much ballyhoo.
Question: Has the tiger population increased, too?
Alexei Surovy: The current tiger population in the Primorye Territory is slightly smaller than its food potential. According to the latest count, there are between 425 and 450 tigers in the territory. The count is taken once every 10 years, and we conduct annual monitoring in 10 areas that are spread evenly around the region. They are located at the key sites of the tiger habitat in the Ussury District, in Land of the Leopard National Park in the Khasan District, in the Ternei District, and so on. Such monitoring allows us to collect information about the tiger distribution and population trends. Our actions depend on animal density at the monitored areas. We can enhance protection measures, up to banning the hunting of hoofed animals, or take other measures appropriate to the situation.
Question: Which districts have the largest tiger populations? Where do tigers live?
Alexei Surovy: Tigers live everywhere. There are tigers in all districts, with the exception of the Khorol District. Tigers have been reported to stray even into the Vladivostok Municipal District. There are very many tigers in the Artyom Municipal District and in the Nadezhdinsky and Shkotovsky districts.
There are hunting reserves across the Primorye Territory, with the exception of protected areas, which contribute to tiger conservation and to increasing its forage base, which is the number of wild hoofed animals.
There are large tiger populations in the Khasan and Mikhailovsky districts. They depend on forest density and the terrain. For example, the Mikhailovsky District is an elongated area where tigers live mostly in the forest. They only venture into agricultural plots when the harvest is ripening and the number of hoofed animals there increases manyfold. For example, a tiger has been recently sighted in the Chernigovsky District, which mostly has agricultural plots and oak forests. This tiger has enough food there – boar and roe deer.
The tiger lives where there is a large population of hoofed animals. In the last two cases, tigers strayed into Artyom and Vladivostok because they were following the trail of hoofed animals. We have one of the largest boar populations in Russia.
This year we have launched a programme of supplementary feeding for hoofed animals. It is underway at those sanctuaries and hunting farms where the feeding grounds can be protected. Unfortunately, not all hunters are honest and law-abiding. Supplementary feeding cannot be used in protected areas, which must maintain the natural habitat and the biological rhythm. When animals die there – so be it. The situation at nature reserves is used to monitor the restorative capability of the population, whereas hunting farms are working to increase the number of hoofed animals so that both the predators and the hunters have enough prey.
Question: Why do tigers attack domesticated animals if they have enough food in the forest?
Alexei Surovy: The bulk of such attacks were provoked by local residents themselves. There are specific rules for pasture breeding of livestock in the tiger habitat. First, there must be a shepherd, because cows, when left alone, can wander 10 to 15 kilometres away. A tiger will certainly attack and kill this huge cutlet on legs. But it’s another matter when a tiger gets into a fenced area. It must be captured and resettled away from this area.
The Primorye Territory Department of Hunting Supervision, the Amur Tiger Centre and WWF Russia have been working to inform local people about these rules, including through special leaflets and hunting licence stickers.
Question: Where can I phone if I see a tiger or a bear in the city?
Alexei Surovy: Call the police. In towns and cities, this is a problem for the police. Or you can call the Emergencies Ministry service. The hunting supervision service is responsible for the situation in the forest, fields, hunting grounds and wildlife sanctuaries. In case of conflict situations, we join forces. If the Emergencies Ministry service and police reaffirm the presence of the animal, our experts go there to capture it, after which they send the animal to a rehabilitation centre.
Question: How often do wild animals stray into human territory?
Alexei Surovy: The number differs from one year to another. The Hunting Supervision Department can receive 30 or even 100 such reports, but the bulk of them are untrue. When our rapid response group goes to the area of the reported sighting, they often see that it is not a tiger. For example, we received a report about a tiger cub lying on the rocks, but our experts who went to the area saw that it was a raccoon. Or there was an old woman who saw what she thought were tiger tracks, but our experts established that they were the tracks of a Great Dane. Very few such reports, not more than four or five, are confirmed.
Question: Has the September flood changed the number of hoofed animals?
Alexei Surovy: Absolutely not. They fled into the hills, and tigers went after them. This is also true for the additional feeding sites. The predators stalk roe deer and boar that come there to feed. And they don’t have to spend time to find the prey. Healthy tigers never worry local people. Once, we went on a business trip to a hunting farm. There was snow at night, and in the morning we saw tiger tracks a hundred metres from our lodge. It turned out that a tigress had been living there for over five years, but she didn’t kill the dogs and otherwise behaved quite well.
Question: Do you mean that the tiger that strayed into Vladivostok was not dangerous?
Alexei Surovy: Not if you don’t provoke the animal. The tiger is a very secretive animal. You can walk 10 to 15 metres near it and never see it, while the tiger sees you and controls the situation. A tiger can be dangerous if it is injured or ill or there is prey it killed nearby.
Question: When do you decide to kill a tiger?
Alexei Surovy: When a tiger strays into a populated area, measures are taken to capture it and send it to a rehabilitation centre. It can be later released into the wild or kept in captivity. We don’t kill unless it is absolutely necessary, when there is danger to local people. The last time we shot a tiger was about five years ago in the Ternei District, when a tiger killed a man. The tiger could not hunt because it injured a paw in a clash with other predators. It was walking on the frozen river when it saw a fisherman, and it killed him. (…)
If you see a predator’s tracks or its dead prey, don’t panic and don’t approach the tiger or the bear. And don’t shoot if you don’t know how. Attacks on humans are most frequently provoked by armed people who shoot at the animal. Worse still, it is a criminal offence to shoot at an endangered animal, even if the animal has attacked you. Human life is more valuable, of course, but it’s better to avoid a situation when you will have to test this maxim.