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Swedish hunters help save Amur tigers

Vladivostok, Russia – The Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management is helping Russian tiger conservation efforts thousands of miles away by sharing its secrets to raising prey animals like deer and wild boar.

The managers of four sustainable hunting estates in Russia recently joined leaders from WWF-Russia’s Amur branch on a special trip to Sweden to learn how to increase the number of prey in their areas – a crucial component of efforts to save wild tigers.

The managers, who head Tigrovoye, Medved, Orlinoye, and Borisovskoye hunting estates, have been working with the Amur branch of WWF-Russia since 2000 to better use their natural resources and conserve rare and endangered plants and animals on their lands.

The Russian team visited hunting estates in the north and east of Sweden in collaboration with the country’s National Veterinary Institute, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the Swedish Association for Hunting and Wildlife Management, and the Kolmården Zoo, the largest in Scandinavia.

Their Swedish counterparts shared methods on how they increased populations of ungulates, including roe deer, wild boar, fallow deer, reindeer and elk. The Amur tiger’s main prey in the Russian Far East are roe deer, red deer, sika deer, and wild boar.

In addition, increasing the number of prey animals in tigers’ habitats reduces human-tiger conflict because when tigers have enough wild prey they are less likely to wander into villages and kill domestic livestock.

There are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild and only about 450 Amur tigers left in Russia.  Low population numbers, an increase in poaching and illegal trade and a decrease in habitat and prey mean that tigers face an uncertain future in the wild.

However, scientists say that there is enough habitat across Asia to support tens of thousands of tigers, and if these big cats have enough space and prey and are protected from poachers, then their numbers will increase.

Projects such as this one that are helping tiger populations recover are a part of WWF’s Year of the Tiger campaign, which seeks to double the number of tigers in the wild by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. 

In late February, the Russian hunters visited feeding grounds for reindeer, elk, roe deer, wild boar, and fallow deer, leaned how to prepare different feeding mixes, and studied the types of animal feeders used in Sweden.

 “The experience gained will help us achieve one of our main goals – to increase ungulates number so that they will be sufficient both for tigers and humans,” said Sergei Aramilev, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF-Russia’s Amur branch.

“We have seen the unique Swedish approach and expertise based on people’s knowledge, and love and care for nature,” said Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF-Russia’s Amur branch. “One of the strongest impressions for me is that game management in Sweden is very democratic – all people regardless of their social or financial status are involved into this process.”

Sergei Voblyi, head of the Orlinoye hunting estate said he expected that Sweden and Russia’s approach to hunting management would be different.

 “But the study tour has proved the contrary,” Voblyi said. “Being in Sweden, I have learned that the approach for game management is similar and have realized the importance of new approaches for my future work in Russia.”

Already, the hunting estate managers have begun changing their approach to raising prey. Voblyi and other hunting estate managers said they now installing new types of feeders and are now using different kinds of forage.

WWF plans to organize a series of seminars to share the findings of the trip with other hunting estates in Primorskii and Khabarovskii Provinces, which are interested in conservation of wild ungulates as the main prey for the Amur tiger and the Amur leopard.

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