02 Apr Wildlife Tracking in Russia? Meet Tigers, Leopards, Bears and Walruses.
Russia has one of the most diverse wildlife in the world. Covering more than one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabited land area, Russia contains the planet’s largest expanse of forest and woodlands that are home to rare mammals such as bears, leopards, tigers and walruses. Russia’s huge territory and rich biodiversity (especially in the easternmost regions), give a truly unique opportunity for animal lovers to explore its wilderness and to meet several rare species in their natural habitat.
Get to know some of the endangered species which inhabit the Russian territory:
Amur leopard is one of the world’s most endangered cats. There are less than 40 individuals left in the wild! Along with the Amur tiger they can only be found in the Russian Far East and northern China. Amur leopards, characteristic for a thick coat of spot covered fur, are extremely conservative in their choice of territory. They hunt a very wide variety of animals, but their preference for deer results in a conflict with humans, who kill them to protect their deer farms. The situation concerning the Amur leopard is critical, but not hopeless, especially thanks to conservation projects run by ZSL in cooperation with ALTA. If their habitats remain protected from indiscriminate logging, rampant forest fires and illegal poaching, there’s still a chance the population of Amur leopard will increase.
Persian (Caucasian) Leopard
Persian leopards can be found in the Caucasus mountains, the majority of the current population (900-1300 individuals) is probably in Iran. The most urgent threat is an increasing fragmentation of suitable habitat. The Persian leopards avoid deserts, areas with long periods of snow cover and areas that are near urban development. In 2013, for the first time in 50 years, two Persian leopard kittens were been born in the Persian Leopard Breeding and Rehabilitation Centre, Sochi National Park, as a result of a reintroduction project run by WWF Russia, in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and local businesses. Find out more about saving Persian leopards on this project page run by our friends from Iran.
Siberian (Amur) Tiger
These world’s largest cats live in the Russian Far East and Northeast China. Large track of prime tiger habitat is located in The Sikhote-Alinsky Nature Reserve. Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful hunters, but despite their bad reputation, most tigers avoid humans (unless they’re sick or are unable to hunt normally). One of the main threats to the Amur tiger’s survival is human activity. Tiger poachers hunt for trophies and also to sell tiger’s body parts. There are an estimated 400 to 500 Amur tigers living in the wild and these numbers are stable, however, they are still classified as endangered and their future is still at stake. Russia was the first country in the world to declare the tiger a protected species (in 1947). Are you passionate about Amur Tigers? Learn more, by watching the “Amur tiger in third millennium” documentary.
Polar bears love the arctic climate, where winter temperatures can plunge to -45º C. They’re huge and heavy (up to 544 kilos), and covered with two layers of fur that help keep them warm. Bears for some reason became a stereotypical symbol of Russia, however, their population is significantly decreasing, and polar bears are classified as a vulnerable species. Their major threat is rapid loss of sea ice. Others include pollution, poaching, and industrial impact. Conservation projects in Russian Chukotka (where polar bears live) run by WWF include polar bear patrols, any-poaching initiatives, minimising human-polar bear conflicts, ecology education and awareness raising.
Atlantic walrus (my personal favourite :)) use their one meter long tusks to pull themselves out of the water and to break breathing holes into ice from below. These sociable animals, which enjoy lying on the ice with their companions, get aggressive during the mating period. They inhabit the northern seas of Russia and Alaska, in the Bering Sea and the Chukchi Sea. Atlantic walrus in listed in the Russian Red Data Book (documenting rare and endangered species), primarily because of the lack of information on the population – the number of walruses and their exact habitat is still unknown. Watch a short video to see these cute animals in their natural environment.
If you’re interested in animal conservation projects in Russia, please visit:
WWF Russia (numerous species, including Amur tiger, Far Eastern leopard, Polar bear, Sea pilgrims)
Wildlife Conservation Society (focus on Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Kamchatka brown bears, Blakiston’s fish owls)
The Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (Amur tigers and leopards)
Off to the wild!
Wildlife tracking in Russia is not always possible, but ExploRussia can help you arrange a proper wildlife conservation holiday in cooperation with specialised NGOs and Russian Nature Reserves. We can either design a tour for you, or just help you with trip planning. We will also advise you on how to prepare for such an adventure and what’s the best time to go.
If you love observing wild animals, but don’t plan a trip to Russia in the nearest future, you can at least watch the fantastic Wild Russia series on Animal Planet :).