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The remaining wild population of around 500 Amur tiger is found in a few isolated pockets of the Russian Far East, in vast tracts of virgin forest known as the taiga. The area is bordered by China, Korea and the sea of Japan and this has left the tiger population vulnerable to poaching for body parts and habitat loss from logging. In recent years the borders have been strengthened and penalties for poaching vastly increased, and these have helped to protect the population, which is stable.

The male or King tiger patrols a territory of up to 500 square miles. Within that are the territories of up to five females. In order to maintain the territory, tigers create a climate of fear by avenging all infractions of their boundaries. The Amur tiger has an outstanding capacity to hold grudges, rivalled only by humans. They have been known to stake out humans who have attempted to kill them or their kin, and even to steal from a tiger’s kill is considered dangerous.

Tracking the tigers takes place in winter when the snow is deep. Tracking is a skilled practice; much can be told by the depth of the print, other signs round about, and it’s sharpness or otherwise. Tiger tracks are always followed away from the direction of travel, back in time. It is extremely dangerous to follow a tiger directly. It always knows you are there, and is expert in doubling round and coming up from behind. Its camouflage is perfect for the taiga such that it is effectively invisible.

Siberia — a last wilderness and the backdrop to TIGER

The Siberian tiger is the largest cat on earth. Maintaining a territory of up to 500 square miles in one of the harshest environments in the world requires an epic memory and ruthless punishment of all infractions. Creating fear of reprisal is as important to the tiger’s success as actually carrying it out. I was intrigued by how this characteristic of the Siberian tiger has defined both animal and human societies in the region. I had to visit this tiger’s habitat, and experience the extremes of temperature and scarcity that it has evolved to dominate.

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