A “miracle tiger” has been released back into the wild

We’re constantly hearing awful stories involving poachers or animals being put on the endangered list, so when we get a win it’s kind of nice to celebrate, isn’t it? Well celebrating is certainly what a group of rescuers should be doing now that a “miracle tiger” has been released back into the wild, nearly two years after he was rescued from would-be poachers.

Saikhan was somewhere between five and seven months old when Russia’s Primorsky Province Hunting Department found him with serious injuries to his nose and face in January 2017. The experts quickly transported the Amur cub to the Alekseevka Rehabilitation Centre (one of two of its kind in Russia), where he had emergency surgery, access to medical care, and months of rehabilitation.

While things seemed touch-and-go at first, it was the quick response that saved the tiger’s life and allowed him to eventually make a rare, full recovery. On paper it seemed like a brilliant feat, but just because he was physically fit didn’t mean he was socially fit to return to the wild. Because the cub was so young when he was rescued and since he spent so many formative months at the centre, he wasn’t exactly equipped for a successful life in the Eastern Russian forests.

So rescuers paired him up with a female tiger cub named Lazovka, who had been rescued a mere month earlier, and allowed the duo to socialize and prep each other for life in the bush. It seems like the plan worked, because the miracle tiger has now re-entered wildlife with his tail held proud, according to the World Wildlife Federation.

The organization points to this heartwarming story as yet another example of the importance of joint conservation efforts and rapid response teams in the fight to increase the critically endangered Amur tiger population. The WWF also notes that from the 1940s to the 1990s these programs have helped restore the Amur tiger population from 40 to more than 500, which is definite progress considering the ongoing tiger poaching problem in Russia.

Meanwhile the organization is hopeful that by decreasing the number of human-tiger conflicts in the Amur region they can further bolster the animal’s population; for now they’ve tagged at least 10 tigers known for regular human-tiger conflict with GPS collars so that they can monitor the animals and protect them in the future.

“The increase in tiger numbers is encouraging but the species’ future in its natural environment still hangs in the balance and numbers remain perilously low,” Rebecca May, WWF’s tiger specialist, told The Guardian last year.

“There now needs to be an enormous push forward to build on this progress. We need commitment and urgent action from all governments of ‘tiger-range’ countries [where tigers still roam free], as well as the passion and unwavering support of the public.”

For now, we’ll just consider Saikhan’s feel-good rescue story as a promising start.