Spotlight Russia: Case file - The killing of Amur tigers

As a result of IFAW’s lobbying, the fine for killing an Amur tiger in Russia was raised from 2,000 roubles (US$50) to 575,000 roubles ($20,000). In 2008, Russia’s Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service (Rosprirodnadzor) toughened the penalties for poaching tigers by increasing fines from 2,000 roubles (US$50) to 575,000 roubles ($20,000). It was a victory for us, because FAW had lobbied for stricter penalties and strengthened legislation to combat poaching,

Russia has fewer than 450 Amur (also known as Siberian or Ussury) tigers in the wild, and no more than 35 Amur leopards.

Since 2010, in Russia's Primorsky Krai region there have been three criminal proceedings dealing with killing of tigers, with the maximum penalty of 575,000 roubles plus 150, 000 roubles in one case.

Case 1. Shooting a trapped tiger

The first case took place in January of 2010, in Krasnoarmeysky District of Primorsky Krai. A poacher killed a female tiger in January 2010 that had been ensnared

Incredibly, the poacher attempted to convince the court that he shot the tiger in self-defence. Three expert opinions had to be obtained to confirm both the violent death of the animal, reconstruct the events and disprove the defendant's version claim of self-defence from an attack by the CITES Red-listed animal.

For committing the crime stipulated in Part 1, Article 258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegally hunting animals, inflicting large damages in relation to animals and birds, any hunting of which is against the law) the court set a fine in the amount of 200,000 roubles (US$7,000).

The court also sustained the claim as part of the criminal investigation to recover ecological damages in the amount of 575,000 roubles.

However, as the court ruling was made in March 2012, two years after the crime, the fine according to Article 258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation did not need to be paid, because the statute of limitation is to one year. However, the poacher was required to  pay the fine according to the Code of Administrative Procedure in the amount of 575,000 roubles. This Article sets the statute of limitation at 10 years from the time the case is opened.

Case.2: Payment in full

In June 2010, a poacher shot and killed a killed a female Amur tiger in the vicinity of Krunovka village.

He was convicted for committing the crime as stipulated by Part 1, Article  258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and sentenced to a fine in the amount of 150,000 roubles ( $5,000 USD). The Court also sustained the claim of the Ussuriysk city prosecutor, made in the interests of the Russian Federation, to recover the full ecological damages from the convicted poacher in the amount of 575,125 roubles.

This sentence passed by the peace justice in the city of Ussuriysk became the first real punishment since 2004 of  a poacher in Primorsky Krai for killing an endangered taiga inhabitant. The fine was to be paid in full.

Case 3. Yet to be resolved

The third case happened in November 2010 in the Khasansky District on the eve of the Tiger Summit held in Saint-Petersburg.

Yury Trutnev, the Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation on November 17, 2010 requested Rashid Nurgaliev, the Internal Affairs Minister that he investigate the killing of a Siberian tiger.

According to the media, a poacher killed a Siberian tiger in November within the premises of game management area in the Primorsky Krai's Khasansky District. The crime was uncovered after one of the hunters hurt by the animal requested medical help.

According to the hunters, they went in different directions and soon heard shots fired. In the area where the shots were fired they found a hurt colleague. He told them that he was attacked by a tiger, and in the course of the fight with the predator, he  shot the tiger with his rifle.

According to Primorye Hunting Inspection, it was a male tiger, well-fed and healthy, the sort of tiger that rarely attacks people in its fine condition.

Not far far from where shots were fired, the staff of Primorye Hunting Inspection found a dead Siberian tiger, a male 4-6 years old. The animal died from gunshot wounds. Trutnev charged the Federal Service for Oversight of Natural Resources to  scrutinize the facts.

Although the Internal Affairs Minister personally monitored the case, the investigation stalled. I believe the Internal Affairs Ministry staff could be delaying the investigation, evidently waiting for the statute of limitation to expire.


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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy