Russian sighting raises hopes for rare species |jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|02/02/04 at 21:00:38|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.11|Russian sighting raises hopes for rare species

Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Tuesday January 27, 2004
The Guardian

It flits like a ghost, almost unseen across Russia's far east, an endangered natural beauty that hides in one remote region near the Chinese border.

And now it appears to be on the move.

Yesterday, staff in Russia's Zeya nature reserve, in the Amur region, reported seeing one of the few remaining Amur tigers alive in the wild, 250 miles from its usual habitat.

They said they saw the creature near the icy heights of Mount Bekeldul. It was seen crossing a frozen pond, said the director of the reserve, Viktor Lisovsky, according to the Interfax news agency. The tiger was reported to be calm, and not hostile towards people. Mr Lisovsky added that the animal was being tracked.

The animals usually inhabit the Primorski and Khabarovski regions.

"This means they could be enlarging their habitat", said Katia Pal, from the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund, who first reported the discovery. "It is pretty exciting news."

The tiger's body parts are coveted by some Chinese for medicine. This makes them a prime target for impoverished locals and professional poachers, who sell their hides and bones on the black market across the border in northern China for hundreds of dollars.

Their numbers in the wild fell to about 50 during the 20th century and now it is estimated that only 500 exist in the wild

http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,2763,1132048,00.html ||