This is the story of one of the world’s most famous Amur (Siberian) tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) named Liutyj and of how one man’s dream can change the world.
Liutyj, English for “fierce”, was one of the oldest and most famous tigers on the planet who lived his life in captivity at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center “Utyos“, located in the Russian Far East. The area spread along the delta of Ussuri river – the “Ussury taiga” is the largest natural habitat of the world’s largest felid and is currently the only place in the world where the Amur tiger still reproduces without human help.
Back in the 90’s a young, but already fierce tiger was found by local hunters and they decided to catch him. The animal wouldn’t give up easily: while trying to immobilize him men used forks, which inevitably injured the animal, leaving him with ugly wounds on both jaws and knocking out a few of his fangs. When Vladimir Kruglov, a famous local tiger expert arrived to the scene and found a bleeding half dead animal, he wouldn’t bet much on his chances to survive.
Kruglov family was not at all surprised by the new wild patient, the yard of their house was converted into a “nursery” for wild cubs in distress a long time ago. Thanks to the expertise, love, care and dedication of the whole family Liutyj, named this way for showing no fear in the fight with hunters, that nearly costed him his life and forever took away his chances to live freely, survived.
Unfortunately, the injury caused osteomyelitis and in the 1999 the animal went trough a surgery to stop the progression of decease. In 2000, a team of Russian veterinary surgeons and their American colleagues from from Hornocker Wildlife Institute, Omaha Zoo and WWF performed a unique surgery on Liutyj’s jaws, implanting artificial fangs made of gold plated silver-palladium alloy replacing those he lost due to the trauma. It’s safe to say, that apart from being one of the oldest tigers in the world Liutyj was definitely one of the richest once. Despite on the beauty of his new maw, that nowadays would cause envy of many rap artists, there was no chance for Liutyj to return back to his beloved taiga, he would not be able to survive in the wild on his own. Liutyj lived his entire life at Utyos and died by natural causes at a senior age of 21 on 18 April, 2012.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center “Utyos” is spread across 5200 hectares of taiga on the territory of the protected area of “Sikhote-Alin” natural reserve in Khabarovsk region. The Center partially owes its very existence to Liutyj.
After the rehabilitation period, usually all the “patients” of Kruglov family were sent over to the zoos, almost never were the injured animals able to recover quickly enough to be released back into the wild. However, with Liutyj it was obvious to Vladimir, that with his ruined maw, the animal would need a special care for the rest of his life and a zoo was no place for him. That was the exact moment the man knew, it was time! He couldn’t postpone his dream any longer: the orphanage for wild cubs who lost their mothers, who were injured by humans and needed help. Vladimir managed to get local authorities and entrepreneurs on board and build the facility with enclosures for the animals and guesthouses for visitors. New habitats were soon filled with lynx, bear and elk cubs in need of care, but the majestic king of taiga, the endangered Amur tiger would forever remain the apple of Vladimir’s eye.
Amur Tigers are among the most critically endangered animals in the world, it is thought about 450 remain in the wild. Almost all Amur tigers live the Southeast corner of Russia in the Sikhote-Alin.
- Poaching for skins and body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine.
- Habitat loss due to farming, forest fires, forest clearance for the timber trade.
- Decline in natural prey numbers due to forest fires and human hunting.
- Conflict with humans.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Supporting the rehabilitation programme
- Strengthening anti-poaching patrol around the nature reserves
- Supporting the programme to increase prey numbers
HOW YOUR ADOPTION CAN HELP UTYOS
- £80 (or just £7 a month) could provide supplemental winter-feeding to help carry a deer and wild boar through extended periods of heavy snowfall.
- £250 (or just £20 a month) could pay for a camera ‘trap’ that will be used for many aspects of the work, from intensive wildlife monitoring to anti-poaching patrol.
- £1200 (or just £100 a month) could pay for rehabilitation programme of one tiger for 6 months.