Will Bolsover headed to Russia’s Far East to follow in the footsteps of the world’s largest cat

12 May 2015
Will Bolsover headed to Russia’s Far East to follow in the footsteps of the world’s largest cat

Siberian Tiger

Will Bolsover, Managing Director of TOFTigers member Natural World Safaris, recently headed to Russia’s Far East to follow in the footsteps of the world’s largest cat, the Amur or Siberian tiger. He shares details of his journey and the incredible team of conservationists he met who work tirelessly to understand better, and protect the last remaining Siberian tigers.

Flying into Khabaravosk I glance out of the window and to see the miles and miles of snowy tundra that stretch before me. The head conservationist Alexander Batalov greets me with a translator. In his sixties, Alexander has spent the last 20 years of his life trying to protect the rare Siberian tiger, establishing the remote forest reserve of Durminskoye; prime habitat for the last remaining Siberian tigers.

The Amur tigers are considered a critically endangered species, with the primary threats to survival being poaching and habitat loss from intensive logging. Alexander tells me how he has often paid out of his own pocket to protect certain trees from loggers; this is where developing a careful tourism programme to the area can help, funding the work of this team of frontline conservationists and helping them preserve the last remaining habitat of these majestic big cats.

Of course it is not an easy destination for tourists. Facilities in these remote regions are basic and the chance of seeing a tiger in the flesh is slim. The appeal of such a trip is to have the opportunity to experience this harsh wilderness, to feel the scratch marks of claws on tree trunks and to smell the musky scent of passing carnivores.

During the day I head out with Alexander and his team setting up and retrieving footage from camera traps spread throughout the tiger’s habitat. Daily, we eagerly scour the forest looking for signs that a big cat has passed through. A recent goat kill signifies that one has been in the area, while sightings of wild boar activity, their main prey, and also adds to our hope of capturing new footage on our camera traps.

Returning to base each day there is an eagerness to see what we have found. After days of struggling through heavy snow, the worst conditions for several years, the excitement of seeing a tiger appear in front of our camera trap is hard to explain. There we have it, my first sighting of an Amur tiger, passing through, walking in our footsteps and then us, following in his.

Sitting on the porch of my log cabin in the woods under a starlit sky, surrounded by thick snow, the tigers prowling around us in the forest I’m hopeful for the survival of the world’s remaining 400 Amur tigers, protected by their conservation guardians, doing their best in extremely difficult circumstances.

Our new trip will allow people to join Alexander and his team out in the field, giving intrepid travellers a rare glimpse into the lives of these endangered predators while contributing to their fight for survival.

Will Bolsover

ABOUT

Natural World Safaris was voted as one of Conde Nast Travellers 2014 top 10 specialist tour operators in the world for their incredible wildlife safaris. Their Siberian Tiger Safari is a seven day trip from £3,000 per person, putting travellers in the wild environs of the last remaining Siberian tigers.

LINKS

Natural World Safaris – Tiger specialists

http://www.naturalworldsafaris.com/Wildlife/big-cats/tiger.aspx

Siberian Tiger Safari

http://www.naturalworldsafaris.com/experiences/wildlife/suggested-holidays/siberian-tiger-safari.aspx

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