© Yuliya Fomenko / WWF Russia

Most tigers do not survive a poacher's gunshot, but this one did.


At the height of the Russian winter in January 2017, the the Primorsky Province Hunting Department received an alert about a badly wounded tiger cub. A team was quickly dispatched to provide emergency first-aid.

When they found the tiger cub, he was only five to seven months old. The team saw pug marks that suggests the cub’s mother and sibling were in the vicinity, but there was nothing the tiger family could do for their injured cub.

The cub was shot through its nose - most likely by a poacher’s gun. This left a terrible bleeding wound in his face. His wounds were extremely serious and the team was not sure if this little cub would survive its injuries. They quickly rushed him to the Alekseevka Rehabilitation Centre.



The cub’s condition seemed to have stabilised after he was placed in a heated quarantine box. But just a week later, the his breathing began to collapse. Once again, the cub was battling for his life.


This is not the first tiger rescue operation that the highly-trained team has worked on, but the cub’s injuries were more complicated than usual.

Consisting of WWF’s tiger expert and ranger, Pavel Fomenko, other specialists, research institutions and the government, a special commission convened and decided that urgent surgery was needed to save the tiny animal’s life. This was going to be a difficult and risky procedure.


Against all odds, the operation was a success. The cub’s survival was described as a miracle. They named him Saikhan. Thanks to the Amur Tiger Centre, which paid for his medical treatment and care, Saikhan was steadily recovering. Meanwhile, WWF purchased video cameras to monitor the young animal around the clock. Saikhan has been in quarantine since surviving his injuries.


For such intelligent animals like tigers, however, it is important for them to be able to play with their kind as they grow up. Thankfully for Saikhan, he was placed in a large enclosure with another female cub rescued a month before him.


WWF equipped the enclosure with a video system to keep an eye on both the tigers and to monitor their progress. The cubs gradually matured into two sub-adult tigers. They grew close and could be seen play fighting together all the time.


“The cubs shared a common fate. They lost their mothers, and were injured.They have grown up together, played, and learned to hunt. For us, the cubs’ plays may look like fun, but in fact, they are predators learning to attack a future prey and to defend themselves from enemies.” said Sergei Aramilev, Director of the Amur Tiger Centre.


Watch Saikhan's story