One year after release, rehabilitated Amur tigress caught on film in Russia

Thanks to four camera traps IFAW had donated to the Khingan Nature Reserve, we now have footage of Ilona the tigress that shows she is thriving in the wild and still sporting her tracking collar.

Ilona, now three years old, is one of the six orphan tiger cubs from the Russian Far East whom IFAW helped rehabilitate and release.

In this particular video, Ilona was captured leaving marks on a tree in which different species—from black bears to red deer—have left their “messages,” proving that rangers chose the right spot for the video trap.

She is one of three famous “Putin’s tigers,” which he helped release a year ago. Ilona actually did not leave the transport cage when Putin first slid the door open. She jumped out of the cage to freedom only after Putin, his staff, and accompanying journalists left. IFAW was left to catch this epic release on camera.

For me it is very emotional to watch Ilona on that video and see how well she is doing in the wilds of Khingan Nature Reserve. She is hunting deer, wolves and wild boars, even though the latter are the least preferred prey.

IFAW has been involved with the rehabilitation of tiger cubs at the Russian Far East for years now. We have made great progress changing the opinions and policies of Ministry of Natural Resources officials.

The first four cubs we helped were delivered to the zoos, due to the belief that it is impossible to return cubs after rehabilitation to the wild. IFAW and our partnering groups proved otherwise and now five tigers we’ve released are successfully living in the wild.

The need for additional camera traps arouse when Ilona scrunched one of five camera traps already installed in the reserve. Ilona seems to be well aware of the presence of the cameras and each time passing by adjusts the camera’s position and then looks straight into the lens. Vyacheslav Kastrikin, Deputy Director of Science at Khingan Nature Reserve, directed the installation of camera traps.

Locations for installing the photo traps were selected based on the results of the winter field work of monitoring feeding habits of the tiger. The photo traps are located at the forest roads which Ilona used quite regularly, no less than once a month.

Apart from these two roads, we were not able to find trails that Ilona would use regularly. Outside of the roads during the winter period the tiger moved mostly along the tracks of wild boars, each time using a new track.

If concentration of the female tiger trails moves away, the photo traps will be moved to the new area she chooses to inhabit. However, Ilona is not likely to move away from such an abundant area.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
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