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Chinese officials scramble to find Putin’s tiger before poachers

By Martin Laine     Oct 14, 2014 in World
Kuzya, a 23-month-old orphaned Siberian tiger that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped release back into the wild in May, has crossed into China. The last thing Chinese officials want is for Kuzya to fall victim to poachers.
The tiger had been fitted with a transmitter and Russian wildlife officials who had been tracking it informed the Chinese government Thursday that the animal had crossed the Amur River into China’s Heilongjiang Province, about 300 miles from where he was released, according to an article in USA Today.
Siberian tigers, native to Russia’s boreal taiga are an endangered species. With the help government programs, they have made a comeback in recent years, and now number 370 to 450 in the wild, up from just 40 in the 1940s, according to an article in the New York Times.
Not so on the Chinese side of the Amur, where even though hunting is illegal, poaching is rampant to meet the demand for tiger parts. The going rate for a tiger carcass in $10,000.
Chinese wildlife experts immediately converged on the area, setting up a network of 60 infrared cameras and dismantling illegal tiger traps. On Saturday, they reported finding signs of the tiger - tracks and feces.
Some news outlets took the opportunity to poke a little fun at Putin’s expense.
“Fearing the economic situation in his home country, and excited about the opportunities available in China, Kuzya … moved to China Friday,” read an article on the Shanghaist website. The same article quotes a Russian newspaper that apparently wrote “There is still hope that Kuzya will be sensible and swim back.”
Russian and Chinese officials see nothing funny in the incident. The two governments have grown closer recently, especially as western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia for its actions against Ukraine.
Vitaly Timchenko, head of Russian Environment Industry, said his agency “hopes our Chinese colleagues will ensure that the fate of the predator follows the framework of international cooperation.”
Meanwhile, there is a report that a second Siberian tiger, Ilona, released at the same time as Kuzya, has been spotted wandering along the Amur River, but has not yet crossed into China.
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