Russian Spotlight: Children Help Brighten the Future for Tigers

Thousands of children in Vladivostok marched in support of tiger protection. Look into the face of a smiling child and it makes you happy. Gaze upon 10 smiling children, it’s joy. But when you look out at a few thousand laughing and singing young people, marching down the street with bright painted faces and orange suits, the feeling is nothing short of euphoria.

And even better: these children aren’t just having fun; they are taking part in protecting one of the world’s most magnificent and endangered species: the tiger. So there I was at Tiger Day 2011 in Vladivostok, the capital city of the Russian Far East, where thousands of school children paraded downVladivostok’s main boulevard chanting, singing, shouting for tiger protection. In the forests nearby, Russia’s last 300-400 wild Siberian (Amur) tigers hang on to existence by their claws.

Several children led the procession wearing T-shirts with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) slogan, "Will only words remain?" The same question was emblazoned on large screens along the parade route. This was all part of an IFAW public awareness campaign that calls attention to the fragility of the world’s tiger population, which has plummeted by 97% in the past century to as few as 3,000 tigers living in the wild.

The procession ended at the city's central square where more than 500 people poured into the IFAW tent over the course of the afternoon. A concert and presentation by Tiger Day organizers featured a video message from IFAW Russia celebrity-suppoter Artemia Trinity:

and a clip about IFAW’s Khasan anti-poaching team, who protect tigers in the nearby reserves of Primorskye Province. We also announced the two Khasan rangers who have won a spot on the next Tiger Watch exchange trip to India in appreciation of their many years of valiant work: Andrei Onishchenko and Ivan Khobotnev. Translation of the IFAW campaign image: Tiger: Will Only Words Remain? On behalf of the US Government, IFAW also presented the newest stamp of the U.S. Postal Service, which features an image of an Amur tiger cub and will help raise funds for endangered species conservation. The animals of the world don’t recognize political boundaries so it’s meaningful when people put boundaries aside as well to help animals that may live far from their own country. At the end of the holiday on a stage show our own Roar! movie of children speaking out for tiger conservation. Listen to the children. They know what they want. They want to grow up in a world with wild tigers. And that’s what yesterday in Vladivostok was all about. -- LA

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