The Udegai people of the Russian Far East forbid the killing of tigers, which they call Amba, and consider a meeting with the striped cat a sign of bad luck.
Once found throughout the Russian Far East, northern China and the Korean Peninsula, Amur, or Siberian, tigers were hunted to the brink of extinction, with no more than 40 remaining in the wild by the 1940s. Russia was the first country to grant the tiger full protection and their population had increased to about 500 by the 1980s, with about 95 percent of Amur tigers within the Sikhote-Alin range in the Primorsky and Khabarovsk provinces of the country’s Far East.
Poaching increased after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Chinese-Russian border for trade: tigers are prized for their fur and bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Although a protected species in Russia, it’s difficult for law enforcement to catch poachers and the minimal fines aren’t enough of a disincentive.
But conservation efforts by organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and others have managed to maintain a wild population of about 540 Amur tigers, which leaves the tiger subspecies still critically endangered.
The Pushkin House in London will be hosting an illustrated talk about these critically endangered animals with Dr Masha Vorontsova of the IFAW. Tickets for the February 15 event can be purchased via The Pushkin House website.