Rare footage in northeastern China suggests that Siberian tigers, an endangered species, are making a comeback after being absent in the region for more than 65 years.
In the remarkable video, a mother Siberian tiger and her two cubs are seen playing about 30 kilometers (~19 miles) from the Russian border. According the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), these tigers historically occupy Russia, China and North Korea, although now their habitat has been restricted to just a few areas in these countries. This is the first video evidence of them so far inland in China, where they were largely wiped out due to hunting and habitat loss. Previously, recordings of paw prints were the only indication that tigers were still in the area, but this could have meant that they were merely passing through. This new footage tells a different tale.
"It's confirmation they're re-establishing, they're not just animals coming in and out [from Russia]," John Barker, Asian programs leader at the WWF, which recorded the video with a camera trap, told The Guardian.
The video also indicates that the animals are breeding; however, Barker takes this new information with a grain of salt, advising conservationists not to get their hopes up.
"We shouldn't get hysterical over one video. There's a long, long road ahead. But the opportunity is there. If the government, civil society and communities can work together, there's no reason there shouldn't be a sustainable population of tigers again in China," he added.
Siberian (or Amur) tigers are the world's largest cats, but down from the hundreds of thousands they now number around 450 animals in the wild. Over the last hundred years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced their populations. These majestic animals are cruelly hunted as trophies, an illegal trade, and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Over the last six to seven years, the WWF has tried to bring back Siberian tigers to China, mainly by re-introducing prey such as deer. Through efforts to restore both their food supply and habitat - China is currently testing a ban on logging of the birch forests these tigers live in - conservationists hope that Siberian tigers will once again thrive in the world.
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