Surrey Supporters Part of Conservation FirstSupporters of Shalford-based wildlife charity, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, have played a key part in a conservation first by helping to fund the rescue, rehabilitation and release of a rare Amur (also known as Siberian) tiger that has now become a mother.
Orphaned in 2012, the then 5-month old tigress named Zolushka (Russian for Cinderella) was found malnourished and with severe frostbite. Her chances of survival looked slim.
“With as few as 450 Amur tigers left in the wild every tiger is vital to the continuation of this sub-species, the largest of all the big cats. And, although Zolushka’s chances of survival looked slim there was no way we were going to stand by and watch her die,” says Vicky Flynn who manages the charity’s TigerTime campaign.
Donations to support the tigers care came from across the world, through the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and a host of international NGOs. Gradually Zolushka gained strength; she was moved to a facility where she could be away from human contact and was taught vital hunting skills. By the spring of 2013 it was decided that she was ready for release back into the wild.
“This was a huge decision to make, the tiger has to be strong, able to hunt and retain a wariness of humans for releases back to the wild to work,” adds Vicky Flynn.
Zolushka was fitted with a satellite and radio collar and tracked by rangers and motion-sensing remote cameras and quickly began hunting badgers, wild boar and red deer. In January 2014, the camera’s also showed she had an admirer – a male Amur tiger.
“There aren’t many good news stories when you work to save wild tigers and when the latest news came through this week that Zolushka was the mother of two cubs we were ecstatic! All the hard work, all the cooperation and the funding had proved that wild tigers can successfully be re-introduced. For tiger lovers, it is one of the best Christmas presents we could imagine!”
It is believed to be the first time a released tiger has gone on to become a mother and raises hope for the survival of Amur tigers.
But Cinderella’s story doesn’t end here. She now has to protect and provide for her cubs through the sub-zero temperatures of a Russian winter.
“We have everything crossed for Zolushka. Now, more than ever, funding for our anti-poaching and park protection patrols in the Russian Far East are vital. They will protect not just Zolushka but other rare Amur tigers too,” adds Vicky.
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation has a long history of supporting Amur tigers and was part of an international coalition that worked to bring the species back from the brink of extinction in the 1990s when numbers crashed to around 100. Today, they continue to fund key tiger conservation projects in Russia, India and Thailand to protect wild tigers.
You can find out more and donate at www.davidshepherd.org