National Geographic: Tigers of the Snow

Synopsis:
Year:
1996
10 Views

On the edge of a lush forest

in Coastal Siberia,

a hunter is on the prowl.

Terney,

A small town in Far East Russia.

This is no longer a place of exile,

but today's Siberians

must eke out a hard living,

trapping, fishing, and logging.

They live on

one of the last frontiers -

surrounded by a vast

and largely untamed wilderness.

And still, out there somewhere,

a legend lives.

A creature of fearful power

and stunning beauty.

It is the biggest cat on earth...

the Siberian tiger.

Today wildlife biologists

seek to study the tiger

and perhaps to save it.

About three hundred Siberian tigers

survive in the wild.

And they are perilously

close to extinction.

These Russian and American scientists

must get close to one of the most

dangerous animals in the world.

But while some seek

the elusive tigers in the wild...

one Russian scientist

is studying them in captivity:

mating and hunting.

Made for Siberia,

this splendid cat can sprint across

the snows at fifty miles an hour.

Magnificent. Mysterious.

Highly dangerous and

highly endangered.

This is the great Siberian -

The Tiger of the Snow.

A vast stretch of forest

blankets Russia

with a fourth of the world's

timber reserves.

Until recently the Siberian Tiger

thrived here in secure isolation.

Under the strict dictates

of the old Soviet system,

the tiger was protected.

But today, enforcement is lax.

Rampant poaching

has dramatically reduced

the population of tigers in the wild.

In the Asian medicine market,

everything from the eyes

to the tail is valued

for its legendary curative powers.

The magnificent coat alone

might fetch ten thousand dollars.

But poachers aren't the only threat.

The tiger's habitat,

part of the largest natural forest

in the world,

is rapidly disappearing.

It's being cut at a rate of

ten million acres a year.

When authorities confiscate a pelt

from the poachers

it must be destroyed so it will

never find its way to market.

Recalling a poet's famous words...

"Tiger, Tiger burning bright

in the forests of the night..."

The coast of Eastern Siberia.

The Siberian tiger once ranged

across much of the Asian continent.

Once they numbered in the thousands.

Now, only some three hundred survive

in a narrow band of mountains

on the Sea of Japan.

The Siberia of legend

is a frozen wasteland.

In fact, parts of the forest

are temperate - even subtropical.

Here,

Russian and American scientists

are seeking to study

wild Siberian tigers

in a last-ditch effort to save them.

Dr. Maurice Hornocker,

an American big cat authority,

has brought desperately needed

technology to this crucial effort.

"Yeah, that's good, too."

In the past, Russian scientists

could study the tigers only in winter,

when their tracks

could be followed in the snow.

Now, with radio tracking devices,

the elusive cats can be studied

sight-unseen - and year-round.

"My first work with cats,

with the mountain lions

in North America, in Idaho,

everyone said it couldn't be done -

and I've always liked a challenge.

We've used the tiger population

as target species

but we've studied the entire

ecosystem.

Because of the immense area

that the tiger needs to exist

defines entire watersheds,

entire systems

that the prey must also utilize.

So you can literally define

an entire ecosystem

by studying a big cat."

The scientists pick up

a radio signal from a tiger

somewhere in the thick forest below.

In fact, it's a number of tigers.

And incredibly,

they're out in the open.

Siberian tigers are so rare and elusive

that even a fleeting glimpse

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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