Daily Express: TigerTime support for Siberian Tigers
Dec 28, 2011
MEET the men with one of the most dangerous jobs on earth – counting tigers in the treacherous snows of Siberia. (Daily Express: John Ingham 28th December 2011)
The Russian rangers (Below: from left to right Eugeny, Andrey and Alexander) brave temperatures of -40C and the threat of being murdered by poachers to keep a lookout for endangered Siberian, or Amur, tigers. While the rangers are out protecting the world’s largest cat, their families 600 miles away in Vladivostok are at risk from gangsters behind the poaching rings – so high are the stakes in this illegal but lucrative animal trade.
Three-man team Andrey Onishenk, Eugeny Stoma and Alexander Ermakov are saviours of the last 450 Siberian tigers in the wild. This year alone the rangers have trudged 500 miles through snow on foot, driven 4,000 miles on near-impassable roads in vehicle patrols, confiscated a cache of weapons and detained 37 poachers across Russia’s lawless Wild East. On one recent patrol they stalked a group of poachers through knee-high snow for three hours before arresting them as they prepared a meal of freshly shot deer.
My lifestyle might sound like hell to city dwellers but, for me, being able to spend the whole day in the forest is rewarding. Andrey said: "My lifestyle might sound like hell to city dwellers but, for me, being able to spend the whole day in the forest is rewarding.
"Yes, I get cold, tired and frightened but doing the job that satisfies me morally and being so close to nature allows me to live in peace with myself. I want my great-grandchildren to live in a world where Amur tigers still exist in the wild.” The rangers need to be physically tough to carry out their day and night patrols, while running the constant risk of being attacked by tiger hunters armed with knives, axes and guns.
The rangers had to dive into a freezing river to retrieve a gun dumped by one poacher, so that it could be used as evidence in a prosecution. The men work for Russia’s Phoenix Fund, which is now supported by British conservationist and wildlife artist David Shepherd through his TigerTime campaign. David, who launched the project last year to mark his 80th birthday, said: "The stakes are high – a tiger skin can fetch over £35,000 on the black market, its bones and body parts as much again.
"With demand still strong in the Far East, the wild tiger is in serious trouble. Without action, extinction is a very real possibility.” He added: "I take my hat off to the men and women we support in the field. The rangers live with a very real fear of reprisal from the poaching gangs they encounter. Despite the dangerous environment, they are cheerful, enthusiastic, energetic and devoted to their jobs.”
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