A research study by the scientists of Cornell Wildlife Health Center, in association with others e.g. Dr. Sarah Cleaveland of the University of Glasgow, have concluded that even a low rate of vaccination at two Siberian tigers per year within a small population can reduce the tigers’ risk of extinction significantly “at a cost of only US$30,000 per year or less if vaccines are given opportunistically when tigers are captured for routine radio collaring studies”.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) causes a serious illness in dogs but it is also a viral disease that affects a wide variety of mammals including coyotes, foxes, wolves, ferrets and big cats such as the tiger, and indeed a variety of other species.
Vaccination of tigers
The researchers decided that the only practical strategy to protect Amur tigers in the Russian Far East was to vaccinate them during standard collaring processes (for example) rather than trying to vaccinate dogs and other species such as martens, badgers and raccoon dogs as it was decided to be impractical as there are no oral vaccines that could be distributed to these animals through baited food.
It seems that the researchers were forced into deciding to vaccinate tigers albeit at a minimal level which they decided was sufficient to provide enough protection to ensure the survival of the species. The researchers concluded that tigers vaccinated in captivity were able to neutralise the strain of CDV that they had detected in the wild. Through a computer model they decided that a low rate of vaccination at two tigers per year could reduce the risk of extinction of this rare species of tiger all of which are living in the Far East of Russia to the northeast and southwest of Vladivostok and the northeast of China. The map below, which I made years ago, may help in showing you where this tiger lives.
Map showing where Amur (Siberian) tiger lives
Status of the Siberian tiger in the wild
In 2002, Fiona Sunquist writing in Wild Cats of the World said that this subspecies of tiger was in jeopardy. In the early 1940s the population was estimated to be 30 individuals. The authorities banned hunting of the Amur tiger in 1952. Numbers steadily increased. In 1971 he tiger census found that there were approximately 130 Siberian tigers left in the Russian Far East. By 1985 the numbers had increased to an estimated 430. In 1996 a fresh estimate concluded that there were between 350 and 450 Siberian tigers remaining in the wild.
It is said that the Siberian tiger is also distributed in north-eastern China where there is a small population. The source of the material for the above article states that there are fewer than 550 Siberian tigers at the date of this post. They do not tell me where that figure comes from. The specialist in this area (IUCN Red List) are asleep again. They say that on the basis of a 2005 census there are an estimated 360 Siberian tigers in the wild and they re-quote that figure in 2011. So the most recent data we have from the specialists is from 2011 based on 2005 numbers. Russia has made a concerted effort to protect this most precious of animals in their country and therefore I would hope and expect the numbers to be stable.