Hooray for Siberian Tigers!

Read about the good news for these Russian big cats.

New numbers show great news for these Russian big cats.

Published August 18, 2015

After days on her own, a four-month-old Siberian tiger cub is discovered in the extreme cold of eastern Russia. Her mother, likely killed by a poacher, is nowhere in sight—so she’s rushed to the home of a local wildlife official. The cub's barely breathing, but rescuers get her the care she needs. Less than a year and a half later, the tiger returns to the wild.

Life-saving efforts like this are paying off. Today these endangered tigers seem to be on the rebound in Russia, according to a recent count taken between late 2014 and early 2015. Heavy poaching caused the Siberian tiger’s numbers to decline in the past. But thanks to more people watching over the big cats, a stronger economy that discouraged people from making money by selling tiger parts, and stricter laws against poaching and illegal wildlife trading, the big cats are making a comeback.

Between 480 and 540 of the subspecies—also known as Amur tigers—now roam in parts of Russia, says the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. That's an increase of about 15 percent since 2005, according to ministry head Sergey Donskoy.

To find the new evidence, government officials and conservationists worked together to search for tiger tracks, scat, and markings like claw scratches on trees in an area roughly the size of Illinois. In some places the team also used camera traps to capture images of the animals.

Most scientists agree that there now appear to be enough Siberian tigers that will continue to breed and produce a healthy population. But the big cats still face challenges. Illegal logging—which destroys habitat—and the demand for tiger parts put the animals in danger.

Luckily, organizations can use this new information to figure out how to best protect these wild cats and their habitat. That way, conservationists can help more tigers earn their stripes for many decades to come.

Text from "Watch: Tiger Numbers Growing in Russia—But Will It Last?" by John Wendle for National Geographic News

Adapted by Rose Davidson, NGS Staff