This month, suspected members of a Chinese poaching gang were captured by Russian border patrol after sneaking into a tiger sanctuary near Kymen-Rybolov, a Russian village near the Chinese border.
When the poachers set off a surveillance alarm, a border squad was sent out to investigate.
By the time they got there several members of the poaching gang were gone, officials said. But one man was quickly caught by law enforcement officers who saw his heavy footprints in the snow. Another set of footprints helped police locate a second man as he was running towards the Chinese border, dragging two big bags behind him as he stumbled through the snow. Inside the bags, said police, were two fresh adult tiger skins and the bones of a tiger cub.
The sale of products made with tigers is a crime in China, but the Chinese black market for these products is the largest threat to the world’s wild tigers.
The two men who were arrested were both Chinese nationals. They are being held in a Russian detention center, pending charges.
This is a new breed of poacher stalking the tigers of the Russian Far East, according to poaching experts. They are better-armed, more organized and faster than they predecessors were, says Pavel Fomenko, the biodiversity coordinator at WWF-Russia’s Amur branch.
“They have helicopters, they have snowmobiles,” he said. “These are criminal gangs.”
Spokesmen for WWF-Russia say it’s likely that the two men who were captured aren’t the ones who killed the Russian tigers. The search for the hunters is said to continuing, on both sides of the China-Russia border.
“This is yet another outrageous attempt to smuggle Russian bioresources into China,” Fomenko said. “I hope the criminals will face the harsh punishment they deserve.”
- Wildlife Trade