MOSCOW, September 25 (RIA Novosti) – More than 20 endangered Amur Tigers were killed in Russia’s Far East in the past nine months, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said on Tuesday.
“Despite a total ban on hunting, Amur tiger hides, other body parts and even live tiger cubs are offered on the Russian-language Internet. Experts estimated that, judging by the number of ads on Runet offering tiger hides, at least 21 tigers were killed in 2013,” the animal conservation charity said in a statement posted on its Russian page.
According to the organizations, up to 30-40 animals are poached annually in Russia, due to high demand for tiger hides, as well for as bones and internal organs, which have for centuries been widely used in traditional Chinese folk medicine.
“As long as the demand for tiger bones, whiskers and hides exists, poachers would treat fines and other risks just as costs of doing business,” said Maria Vorontsova, IFAW regional director for Russia. “Although the authorities toughened punishments and made poaching of rare animals a criminal offense, such cases are being referred to court only sporadically.”
The IFAW calculations are largely consistent with those announced by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in July. Pavel Fomenko, coordinator of the WWF’s branch in Russia’s far eastern Amur province, said Russian confiscated the skeletons and body parts from at least 19 dead tigers in 2012-2013 and launched seven criminal cases against tiger poachers and traders.
Siberian tigers – also known as Amur, Ussuri or Manchurian tigers – are the largest living felid with adult animals weighting up to 384 kilograms (850 pounds). They prey on wild boars and deer in the taiga forests of Russia’s Far East and China’s Manchuria.
The Amur tiger has the “endangered” status on the IUCN Red List. Recent surveys indicate that the population of Amur tigers in Russia’s Khabarovsk Territory and Primorye Territory has stabilized in recent years and is now estimated at about 450 animals.