Spotlight Russia: Getting a closer look at tigers
Each year, the International Fund for Animal Welfare selects two rangers who are responsible for protecting Amur (also called Siberian) tigers in nature reserves in Russia and sends them to India as a reward for their hard work, to exchange ideas with other rangers and to see tigers.
Yes, the Amur is so elusive, the Russian rangers seldom see them. At least in India, they’re able to see the Bengal tiger up close.
Here are the impressions of Andrey Onishenko and Vladimir Kolesnokov, the rangers who traveled to India.
I did not expect that in the wild one can see such a great amount of animals at the same time. Before the trip, I saw something like this in pictures of the Garden of Eden, or Paradise, where all animals live in peace and harmony. Naturally, in India’s parks there is no great friendship between predators and their prey but in contrast our hoofed animals do not demonstrate constant vigilance and fear. I was happy to see a tiger hunting for dappled deer, and only then I saw their fear. Suddenly, they froze and started listening with their big ears. Then, they ran for some distance and when they made sure the tiger understood they had seen him, they started to graze calmly, while the tiger moved on to hunt further. He does not have to walk for tens of kilometers and use up its energy as our tigers have to; it’s enough to walk for 50 meters in any direction.
When we arrived at the park we were told that we have a 99 percent chance to see a tiger. And we were not disappointed!
The main thing I became convinced of is that to ensure successful conservation it is necessary to rely on authority and legislation. In our country, under the current conditions, a nature reserve inspector often has fewer rights than a poacher.
The work of inspectors is better organized in India. Legislation is better over there and the inspectors have more rights. Salaries of inspectors are high for India. There are more inspectors than over here.
It would be nice to have a similar legislation regulating natural conservation including conservation of tiger as in India. Hunting is forbidden over there since 1974. Here, hunting is barely regulated, neither regarding the quantity, nor the terms. In India you cannot even drive in direction of a tiger. Over here it is impossible to prove that poachers shoot at hoofed animals from a vehicle on the road. The reserve's inspectors do not have the right to stop cars on the road.
To preserve tigers in the Far East of Russia it is necessary to: One, outlaw hunting of hoofed animals for the next several years. Two, ensure real functioning of protection areas around existing nature reserves. Three, increase salaries in nature conservation agencies. Four, widen the scope of rights of inspectors they need to cover the protection areas around nature reserves as well.
To strengthen work of inspectors training in interception of poachers is needed, and seminars on inspectors rights and authorities (what we have the right to do, and what not).