The PRNCO Tiger Centre has been operating in the Russian Far East providing assistance to the Department of Hunting Supervision, resolving conflicts between predators and humans for over 6 years. PRNCO provide immediate veterinary care to tigers who have had to be withdrawn from the wild and provides ongoing rehabilitation care. Since launch, they have returned 10 conflict tigers to the wild and rehabilitated numerous other species.
Lazovka and Saikhan are the latest two tigers to be returned to the wild, and this is their story.
Lazovka was found in December 2016 on the outskirts of Lazo village, five months old, orphaned and starving.
Saikhan (meaning noble and beautiful) arrived at the centre one month later, with severe facial injuries. Veterinary experts worked tirelessly to restore the bone structure around his nose and upper jaw and performed vital surgery to his eye that was also severely injured.
Thanks to the expertise of the team, Saikhan blossomed during his time in rehab, amazing everyone with his resilience despite such shocking injuries.
At the PRNCO Centre, this pair formed a beautiful friendship, playing like siblings, honing the vital hunting skills that they would need if they were to return to the wild.
Last week (May 2018), no longer babies, Saikhan and Lazovka were deemed mature and fit enough to return to the wild. Experts decided that this release would be different from previous releases which they believed to be very stressful for the animals. Typically, animals are immobilised, placed into individual transportation crates before embarking on the long journey to the release site. In a detailed email from Katya Blidchenko, Zoologist for the PRNCO Tiger Centre, she states:
“Tigers with a frightened glance jumped out of the cells, and the first day had to overcome a considerable distance.”
“This time Saikhan and Lazovka were transferred to a temporary cage after transportation, where they stayed for 5-6 days. After the tigers adapted following transportation, they were reinforced with deer (which had been placed in the enclosure a little earlier), installed their “compass” and in a relaxed atmosphere came out of the enclosure.
The gates were opened remotely, the human factor did not interfere with the animals. The decision on how and when to leave the enclosure and explore new spaces was made by the tigers on their own.
Although the tigers did not come out together (as we expected), but they are relatively close to each other, within the limits of the daily rate of the tiger. The first one left the cage of the tigress, who turned out to be more decisive than her young companion (which was expected according to our observations in the Centre). But each of them knows where they broke up, and everyone can return to this place and find each other.”
We have heard that the tigers managed to hunt their first prey only three days after leaving their temporary enclosure. Field teams will eventually visit the site to find out what they hunted, and continue to monitor them via their network of camera straps and satellite radio collar data.
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