In November 2014, several residents from the Vyazemskoye Village in Russia spotted a lone, ragged male tiger on the outskirts of town – a rare sight but not unheard of in this village. The village is also situated on the western edge of the Amur tiger range, where only about 500 wild tigers remain. Poaching is still the biggest threat to the Amur tiger but habitat loss from logging and development also harms their population.
After three dogs in the village were killed by tigers, locals contacted a group that was specifically set up by WWF that addresses human-tiger conflict. Several experts from this group found and tranquilized a pale and severely malnourished tiger. This tiger was then brought to a government-run rehabilitation centre that specializes in nursing distressed tigers back to health for their eventual release into the wild. It was here where the tiger earned his name, Uporny. He refused to leave his transport cage to enter the new enclosure. Uporny, in Russian, means stubborn.
Uporny’s health improved quickly and he eagerly accepted food. Experts made sure to keep contact with Uporny to a minimum, preserving his wild instincts. He was also outfitted with a GPS collar which measured body temperature and location so that his movements were closely monitored.
Seven months later, a site situated about 124 miles from the rehabilitation centre for the release of a healthy and energetic Uporny back into the wild was chosen. Over the next five months, researchers found positive signs that Uporny was adjusting well to his new life. He was hunting regularly, found a home and even a mate for himself.
Unfortunately, on March 2017, researchers found that the GPS marker had not moved for almost a month and recorded a dramatic drop in the cat’s body temperature. Life in the taiga is unforgiving and only the strongest survive. An autopsy conducted revealed that Uporny’s death was caused by a fight with another large predator, almost certainly another male tiger.
Amur tigers are still at risk and face dangers from habitat destruction due to a global demand for timber, energy and tiger products which are being sold in black markets. We have already lost over 96% of wild tigers in the last century, but we are slowly recovering their population through Tx2 – the global commitment to double the world’s wild tigers by 2022.
This is why WWF and Tiger Beer are in partnership to raise awareness on the plight of wild tigers.
Esther Goh is a Singaporean illustrator and designer whose works span the areas of interactive design, branding and print. Esther cites stories – fictional or non-fictional – as inspiration for her work and loves the idea of creating images from compelling ideas. While she has experimented with many different techniques at school from acrylic and watercolor paints to sculpting with polymer clay, drawing digitally still continues to feel the most natural to Esther.
Follow Esther on Behance here.