Putin's tiger keeps Chinese reserve on tenterhooks

Putin's tiger keeps Chinese reserve on tenterhooks
The Siberian tiger.

The appearance at a Chinese Nature reserve of a Siberian tiger set free by Russian President Vladimir Putin makes workers there nervous, but also excited, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

Images of Kuzya, one of three Siberian tigers released in Russia by Putin in May were caught at Taipinggou Nature Reserve in Luobei county, Heilongjian province. The tiger is expected to spend winter in China.

"We feel excited about the finding of the first Siberian tiger in our reserve," Chen Zhigang, director of the reserve, told the newspaper.

But he added Kuzya also makes them nervous as they have to snure the safety of both the tiger and the reserve's inhabitants.

"There are about 200 inhabitants in the reserve who have a tradtion of hunting and they have been advised not to go out alone during the day and stay at home at night," Chen said. "We also called on inhabitants to remove trapping and snaring devices in the mountians in case Kuzya is hurt by them."

Sixty additional infrared cameras have been set up across the reserve to capture tiger images or tracks. Kuzya and the two others, Ilona and Borya, were fitted with GPS collars when they were released in Russia so that researchers could track their movements.

But it will take many hours before the data of Kuzya's locaiton can be transferred to the Chinese from their Russian counterparts.

Chen said Kuzya does not need any "special treatment" in terms of food it needs, such as wild boars and rabbits as they are sufficient and cal all be found in the area.

Kuzya's appearance has heightened public awareness of the endangerment of Siberian tigers. Fewer than 500 remain in the wild, mainly in eastern Russia, northeast China and northern parts of the Korean Peninsula. China puts its own number of wild Siberian tigers at between 18 and 22, mostly living in the border areas.

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