Operation Snow Tiger – a TV Series – Episode 2 of 2 – spoilers

Snow TigerPresented by Liz Bonnin
Directed by Dick Sharman
Produced by Ted Oakes

First aired BBC Two, 20:00 Sun, 16 Jun 2013

Last week I reviewed Episode 1 if you haven’t read that you might want to start there.

There are spoilers below so if you haven’t watched the episode you might want to watch and come back to see what I have to say. If you live in the UK you can view the episode on BBC iPlayer.

The third orphaned cub that was tracked down by the Rangers that Max was accompanying was very badly dehydrated and starved. He was just days from death when found. So dehydrated using a drip wasn’t helping. Locals open up their home and he was treated in someone’s bedroom, while the householders prayed for his well being.

Max and the Rangers searched for this third orphan for over a week in deteriorating conditions. The dedication of the people working in this area is amazing.

Meanwhile Liz and the rest of the team have been putting a lot of effort in to finding whether there are breeding females in the reserve. The only female identified so far as definitely in the area, Serga, who the scientists believe is no longer fertile. Her daughter, Princess was seen in November last year. The known range of Princess overlaps with that of her mother as much as 50%. Princess however is sighted more often outside the reserve.

As in the first episode camera traps were set up, this time looking for signs of Princess. Dale explains that mother Tigers actually donate part of their range to their offspring.

p019hs3nWhile looking for Princess they find that a camera trap has been triggered, by Dale… and by a young male, Luke. There are about twenty minutes between Dale and Luke being captured on the camera. Luke came from the direction Dale had walked towards. It came to pass that Luke had been watching Liz and Victor as they looked at the camera trap footage.

Another 30 camera traps were put up to try to get a sighting of Princess.

Dale and Max headed North to look for another female in the Sikhote-Alin reserve. Varvarra is the last known female in the area and she has yet to have cubs. Tiger numbers in this area is at its lowest in 35 years. Varvarra is collared and tracking her is easier than finding Princess as her range is better recorded.

Victor and Liz leave the reserve in the search for Princess, who is also collared. Unfortunately this area has a large access road, over 750km long, cut through the forest for an gas pipeline. This may make travelling easier for a Tiger but it also makes access to the forest much easier for poachers. Here there are fewer Rangers to protect the rare wildlife.

Max and the team have found definite signs that Vavarra has at least three cubs. Aged between three and four years this is an idea age for her first litter and she has years ahead of her for many more. The footage and evidence found has taught Dale new information.

It had been thought that the mother and cubs stayed near a kill however footage showed how dangerous a kill site would be for this with a large number of animals using the area. This can be seen in the video clip on BBC.

Liz travels with Roma, a retired boxer, who now an anti-poaching inspector who. Along with one colleague, polices over 40,000km square metres of forest. She accompanies him on a raid of suspected poachers who have unfettered dogs and illegal weapons. These were subsistence poachers but Roma has come across many professional poachers. Both activities are illegal but one is understandable with the need to feed the family, the other unforgivable.

One Tiger can sell for up to $50,000.00. While Liz was filming police in a neighbouring area found eight corpses in one raid, around 2% of the population of wild Tigers.

All three of the orphaned cubs have done well, hey are growing well and are healthy. They are now in an outdoor enclosure where they will slowly be introduced to live game to learn to hunt as their enclosure is slowly enlarged. It is hoped they can be release within a year.

With two days left of Liz’s time in Russia they still hadn’t seen signs of Princess. They had received reports of Tigers in a private Hunting Club just outside the reserve. The hunters are happy to share the land with Tigers as their presence keeps wolves out, wolves would kill more game than the four Tigers that live on the hunting club’s land. Victor tracked Princess inside the hunting club’s area.

But on the last day of the BBC team being there Dale finds camera trap evidence that there is another, un-collared female in the area. No one had ever seen this female before. So the future looks good for the area.

Further details regarding the three orphans

On Ted Oakes program The Polar Bear Family and Me last year the fortunes of Lyra and her cub Miki were left unknown. We still have no positive sightings of Lyra, with or without Miki.

On this program though we know exactly where the three orphans are and you can learn more about them in general on WCS Russia’s website. You can aid the rehabilitation of the orphans by visiting Phoenix Fund who are raising money to help support the project.

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