Siberian Tiger, which is also known as Amur Tiger and Panthera tigris altaica, is one of the rarest of the six existing subspecies of tiger. Now this species is on the threshold of extinction. If we have a look at the history, we are sure to notice that at the beginning of the 20th century the population of the Siberian Tiger was larger and spread over the territories of China, both Koreas, Mongolia and southeastern Russia.
However, later the population of this type of tiger decreased drastically and now we can find this species in the very low amount in North Korea, China and southern part of the Russian Far East, where the population of the Siberian Tiger is the greatest. Thus, in the middle of the 20th century the population of the Siberian tiger was greater in China, however later their number in this country decreased to a dozen, while in the neighboring Russia it increased from some 50 tigers up to 200 till 1982 (Matthiessen, 2001).
Once people realized that this beautiful and rare cat can disappear completely and be lost for the following generations, they started apply different sorts of the conservation measures. The most effective of them are captive breeding and conservation. According to the count dated 1996 the general wild population of Siberian Tigers was 430 individuals. It should be mentioned that due to the effective conservation policy in Russia the general population of the Siberian Tiger increased although very slightly.
It is not that easy to give the exact number of tigers in wild, generally it was estimated that their number in the forests of the Far East is in between 431 and 529 as it was stated in the last in 2005 (Siberian Tigers stable, 2006). Lately, the World Wide Fund for Nature reported that according to the latest Russian Census reports, the number of the population of the Siberian Tiger is 480 up to 520. This number includes only the population of this tiger in Russia without taking into consideration some smaller amount of the population in mainland China (World Biggest Tiger Winning Extinction Fight, 2006).
According to the Chinese report published by the Hengdaohezi Feline Breeding Centre over 620 Siberian tigers will be released to the wild life after their numbers reaches 750 (Baby boom for endangered tigers, 2006). In this paper I’d like to discuss the particular aspect of the problem of the Siberian tiger extinction – its life in captivity and modern trends of the rich people to keep the tigers as their pets. I will regard this issue in regard with the general tendencies of the changes in the population amount.
First of all I’d like to mention that the number of Siberian tigers kept in captivity now reaches several hundred. This is a big number especially if compared to the general amount of the population of this tiger. For the most part captive tigers can be found typically in China, Europe and North America. For the most part these captive Siberian tigers are kept as zoo exhibits. It should be mentioned that this captivity is not necessarily a bad thing. The Siberian Tiger is bred according to the requirements of the Species Survival Plan, which involves 160 caught tigers.
This amount is big enough to keep the population of the captive tigers healthy and stable in its amount. According to most experts, this population is large enough to stay stable and genetically healthy. SSP is very effective especially for the Siberian tiger, saving it from extinction. On the one hand captivity can be considered a positive tendency as the Siberian Tiger is easy to breed in captivity, however, it should be mentioned that in case the previously captive animal is released back to the wild life, it is not very likely to survive.
Therefore, governments of the countries, where the wild population of tigers live, still pay a lot of attention to the preservation of the natural areas of the tiger’s habitant to stabilize and increase their population in wild. Lately, there appeared one more problem concerning the life and the preservation of the Siberian Tiger. It appeared that especially this rare species of tiger is very popular for “private collections” or kept as pets either on the backyard or even in the apartment.
There has been a severe debate on this topic. On the one hand this type of captivity raises the population of tigers. On the other hand it appeared that the owners are not really concerned with preserving this rare species of the tiger, but breed it as a sign of wealth and sophisticated taste. It should be mentioned that according to the recent researches the number of big cats kept in neighborhoods and roadside zoos in the United States has reached 15,000 individuals.
In the majority states on the USA it is surprisingly easy to get the wild cat legally. However, this often ends up tragically. Majority of wild cats kept in private ownership are neglected and not properly cared for as stated by the numerous researches. For the most part people can’t buy a Siberian tiger in any pet shop, just as any other big wild cat. However, they are all available for sale online and in newspaper ads. Sometimes a Siberian tiger cub can be surprisingly cheap – even cheaper than a puppy – only $400 (Handwerk, 2003)
The approximate number of Siberian tigers, which are kept as backyard pets and parks exhibitors of the United States, has recently reached 10,000 individuals, while the number of these pets, which continue living their wild life in Russia, China, India, Indonesia is twice as less and hardly reaches 5,000 individuals (McGill, 2005). The problem of the domestic breeding of the Siberian tiger is obvious. Although, these cats are really pretty and for the most part peaceful if treated appropriately, the grow very quickly up to 500 pounds and eat as much as 15 pounds of raw meat a day.
They also require special treatment and quite often the owner can not satisfy all their needs, which leads to the neglect of the tiger (Handwerk, 2003). Shirley Minshew, the emergency relief director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, states that there is a great number of Siberian tigers all over the territory of the USA, which are kept in private ownership and are totally neglected, which is due either to the lack of knowledge of the owner, his inability to meet the requirements of the appropriate breeding or simply because of his neglecting attitude to the cat.
Shirley Minshew helps to rescue tigers from such private ownerships and puts them in orphanages. “Look at a normal housecat, even one confined to inside the house. Look at its size and the size of its comparable surroundings, then look at a lion or a tiger in an eight-by-eight-foot or even a 12-by-12-foot enclosure. We wouldn’t think of getting a cat and just shutting it up in a travel kennel or a small box, so why would we do that to an animal that is this much more powerful? ” (Handwerk, 2003) Recently there has been a lot of research on the characteristic features of the owners of the Siberian tigers.
It has defined that people owing these big cats come from different social backgrounds and belong to different age groups. “It’s an ego thing. It’s great to be able to walk down the street with a tiger cub on a leash. It creates attention”. The problem exists due to the fact that out of all US states, only 19 imposed a ban on private ownership of big cats, while 15 states required just a license or permit to have the tiger in the private ownership and other 16 still don’t have any regulating legal basis for the control of the big animals purchase and breeding (Handwerk, 2003).
However, as it was already mentioned the problem here is that Siberian tigers are not just small puppies. They are not that easy to take care of. “These animals are not getting adequately fed. We’re coming across animals that are skinny. They have hair loss, they have other metabolic problems, kidney problems, and in some cases kidney failure due to the nutrition that their well-meaning owners are providing them,” Jim Boller, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigator, said (Handwerk, 2003).
The other problem of the home breeding of Siberian tigers is that in spite of the fact that they can look just as big cats and can be really sincerely attached to the owner, they are still wild. Their behavior cannot be completely regulated, just as behavior of any pet. However, in case of big cats the consequences can be really tragic. There is a number of cases, when owners get injured by their “wild” pets. The greatest number of accidents happens with kids, who do not realize the dangers associated with mistreatment of these big cats.
There were cases when a six-year-old boy was killed by a tiger, or when a tiger rips off the arms of the eight-year-old boy (Handwerk, 2003). These are just examples. But they already prove the dangers associated with domestic breeding of Siberian tigers. Quite often owners of the tigers realize their inability to take care of the animal or appropriate organizations report animal neglect and take the tiger away. However, here the other problem appears.
The majority of zoos will never take the animal with appropriate family history or clear background. The tigers, which were once kept in private ownership, cannot be also released free. They usually lose their hunting habits and are unable to survive in the wild life situation. Therefore, I support the idea that private ownership of big cats in general and Siberian tigers in particular, should be severely regulated. Purchase of big cats should be more regulated. Proper organizations should watch carefully the way the cats are kept.
Furthermore, I consider that more attention should be paid to the preservation of the natural areas of the Siberian tigers. Appropriate actions should be undertaken to increase the popularity of the Siberian tiger in the wild life. Once due attention is given to this question, this will ensure the continuous growth of the population of the Siberian tiger. On the other hand keeping tigers in the conservation areas, especially created for the Siberian tigers and designed in order to resemble the tiger’s natural environment, will be beneficial for both a tiger and a human.