Beijing: Chinese forest officials are working to locate a tiger that has allegedly roamed into China after being released by Russian President Vladimir Putin into the wild.
The Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, was seen at the Taipinggou nature reserve in Luobei county in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, Chen Zhigang, director of the nature reserve, told Xinhua Thursday.
"A Russian expert called to tell us the location of the tiger and expressed the hope that we can protect it," Chen said, adding that the big cat, tagged with a tracking device, is near the Heilongjiang river along the Sino-Russian border.
Chen said they have dispatched personnel to remove possible traps and set up more than 60 cameras in the hope of capturing its image. Forest police officers are required to notify local farmers about the tiger's presence.
He said food should not be a problem for the tiger since the 20,000-hectare nature reserve features rich diversity of wildlife. "But if necessary, we can release cattle into the region to feed it."
Russian media reported that the tiger, named Kuzya, was among three rare Siberian tigers set free by Putin in May. The tracking device showed the young tiger crossed the border into China from Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region.
Fewer than 500 Siberian tigers remain in the wild, mainly in eastern Russia, northeast China and northern parts of the Korean peninsula. China puts its own number of wild Siberian tigers between 18 and 22, mostly living in the border areas.
Chen said Siberian tigers have not been found before in Luobei county. However, traces of the endangered species, including infrared pictures, footprints and feces, have frequently emerged in other parts of Heilongjiang, thanks to its improving habitat.
A file picture taken on August 31, 2008, shows Vladimir Putin (L), assisted by Russian scientist scientist Vyacheslav Razhanov, fixes a GPS-Argos satellite transmitter onto a tiger during his visit to the Ussuriysky forest reserve of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Far East. Photo: AFP
Based on years of observation, experts concluded that wild Siberian tigers have settled in forests administrated by the Dongfanghong Forestry Bureau in the eastern part of the province.
Since April, commercial timber logging has been banned in Heilongjiang's two major forests, the Greater and Lesser Hinggan Mountains. Aimed at restoring the ecosystem, the ban ended more than half a century of logging in China's largest forest area.
According to the latest findings in September, forest authorities in the province have for the first time discovered traces of Siberian tigers in a planted forest zone, the Linkou Forest Zone, suggesting that tigers roaming along the China-Russia border have begun to migrate into new forests inland.