Siberian tiger: the situation at the beginning of 2023



by LORENZO CIOTTI

Siberian tiger: the situation at the beginning of 2023

Siberian Tiger is widespread exclusively in the extreme south-eastern part of Siberia, in the region south-east of the lower course of the Amur River and east of its Ussuri tributary. The area includes the mountainous territories of Primorsky and south-central Khabarovsk which constitute, administratively, the southeastern portion of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia and, geographically, the extensive coastal mountain massif of Sichote -Alin.

Currently, the first risk factor, which in any case regards all tiger subspecies in general, is the reduction and fragmentation of the diffusion habitat due to the increase in anthropic activity. This increase favors the deforestation of forests to obtain timber or space for the construction of new urban settlements The Russian population is stably distributed in Sichote-Alin and has only sporadically been reported further north of the fiftieth parallel or further west in the Amur Oblast region.

The Stanovoy Mountains, the Aldan Plateau and the Dzhugdzhur Mountains are located at latitudes that are rarely exceeded. The Chinese population survives, in a degraded and fragmented habitat, on the mountain massif of the Changbai Shan, largely included in the province of Jilin, and in the mountainous belt between the left tributaries of the Tumen River and the border with North Korea, Russia and the Chinese province of Heilongjiang.

This border strip, which includes China's Huangnihe Conservation Area, lies directly northeast of the Changbai Shan. The decline of the Siberian tiger began in the mid-19th century especially in China and Korea due to intensive hunting for fur and bones, for fun or because the animal was considered, by the local population, harmful to livestock or own safety.

By the 1940s, the total population had dwindled to around fifty in Russia and a few hundred in China. In South Korea, the tiger would have become extinct in the early 1950s during the Korean War. In 1996, the IUCN determined its conservation status by classifying the subspecies as critically endangered and estimating its population to be no more than 250 adult specimens with a decreasing demographic trend.

A census carried out, always in the same year, estimated a population of slightly higher adult specimens to which were added between 85 and 105 puppies. Also in 1996, on the basis of the analysis of the genetic diversity of some specimens in the wild, a theoretical population of 500-600 adult specimens was estimated.

The Siberian tiger is a protected animal, but poaching is fueled by the flourishing and profitable trade in bones used for various purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. This trade, declared illegal in 1993 by the Chinese government, is attributed, in particular, to the more recent demographic decline suffered during the eighties and nineties of the twentieth century.

Since the late 1990s, however, hunting pressure has decreased thanks to more effective enforcement by local authorities.