The rehabilitation centre in Alekseevka (Primorski Krai) has been established to care for wildlife that finds itself in need of human help. Sadly the most frequent residents are Amur tigers as every year there are a number of cubs that find themselves orphaned due to their mothers being poached. These often happens before they have developed the necessary skills to survive in the wild without coming into conflict with humans. The centre is managed by Inspection Tiger and the large naturalistic enclosures provide them with the opportunity to stay as wild as possible, whilst still receiving the level of support they need. There is minimal human contact and live prey is provided so they can hone their hunting skills. They remain at the centre until they are deemed fit for release, after which they are very carefully monitored to ensure they are coping being back in the wild.
The first and most famous resident at the centre was a young tigress named Zolushka (Cinderella) who was found in February 2012. She was alone, emaciated and had frostbite on her tail and leg and would have died within 24 hours if not rescued then. She received immediate veterinary care and the decision was made to take her to Alekseevka for rehabilitation, with the hope of returning her to the wild.
Whilst at the centre Zolushka was first given small items of prey such as hare and badger, then as her confidence and ability grew she was given larger prey such as deer. All the time she was closely monitored via CCTV and watchtowers so she did not grow accustomed to humans. Zolushka recovered her health and strength and settled into the centre very well. She remained there for just over a year until wildlife professionals were confident she could survive in the wild. Her big day came on May 9th 2013 when she was released into a carefully chosen nature reserve.
This video shows Zolushka’s return to the wild.
Since then she has been thriving and has adapted brilliantly to being in the wild. There has also been a male recorded in the same area as her at the same time so it is very possible that in the near future she will be having cubs.
Sadly she has not been the only tiger that has needed the support of the rehab centre. Five more tigers, Borya, Kuzya, Ilona, Ustin and Svetlaya have all been through the centre and prepared for life in the wild. Unfortunately not all of them have been as successful as Zolushka. Ustin travelled far and wide, crossing between China and Russia. He was showing no fear of humans and was also taking domestic dogs and livestock. This is increased his chances of being involved in a human-tiger conflict situation, jeopardising his safety and also the chances of other tigers being rehabilitated and released due to negative public perception. It was therefore decided that he should be recaptured and he has since been relocated to a zoo in Russia where he will make a valuable contribution to the Amur tiger breeding programme.
All of the other five tigers survived the 2014/15 winter and have met all three targets of the rehabilitation process: 1) They all demonstrated the ability to make kills of wild prey within the first two months of release. 2) They have all generally stayed away from people, domestic animals and human settlements. 3) They all appear to have survived the 2014/15 winter (the first winter for them all except Zolushka).
The centre is not just there for tigers however, and there is currently (August 2015) an Amur leopard being cared for there. This young male was found with an injury to his front paw, most likely caused by being caught in a poacher’s snare. He has had to have three toes amputated but is so far doing well and putting on weight. It is not yet known how effective he will be at hunting prey but is being offered larger animals to see how he copes. No decision has been made on his future but he will remain at Alekseevka for the time being to see how he may fare.
We will provide updates on the leopard on any new residents that may come through the centre when we have them. ALTA has contributed funds to keep the centre running in the past and supports the Human-Tiger Conflict Mitigation project managed by WCS Russia which is involved in looking after these animals, both during and after rehabilitation.