Eight Amur tiger skins were seized from a resident of Arseniev town in Primorsky krai (Russian Far East) on August 24th.
2006 Whitley Award winner Sergei Bereznuk, Director of the Vladivostok based NGO, Phoenix Fund said, “Despite the fact that after the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg in 2010, the Russian Government is allocating big money to conserve Amur tigers in protected areas, poaching, continues to be a major hurdle and, unfortunately, the government is suffering defeat in its fight with poachers. We have not yet recovered from the last alarming news about a huge seizure of skins and derivatives of wild animals in April. During a search the police accidentally discovered 148 bear paws, 2 skins of the Himalayan bear, 3 skins of the brown bear, two skins and 5 tails of Amur tiger and 5 carcasses of a sea eagle. We hope that the arrested men will receive just punishment for their crimes”.
Below is an exert from a press release from Sergei’s colleague, Pavel Fomenko, of WWF Russia:
The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is revered by most people in Primorye as the most beautiful and majestic animal, a symbol of the region. Although there are some people who consider it just roaming “striped money” and try to get, by fair means or foul, a skin of this rare animal; listed as endangered species in Red Books of the Russian Federation and IUCN. Among the seized skins there were also small ones of 1 or 2 month-old tiger cubs. The specialists think that hunters killed the whole tiger family. The damage caused to nature is huge. For example, about 8-10 adult Amur tigers live in Lazovsky Nature Reserve (120,000 ha), one of the largest nature reserves in Primorye.
“Viktor, a wildlife dealer, is well-known by investigators for his illegal business; he has been buying up illegal wildlife products since the 1990s and was apprehended several times. Unfortunately, his appetite has significantly increased since then”, Primorsky Police’ press service informed. “Besides tiger skins, the police officers found 230 ginseng roots, 97 bottles of vodka with ginseng roots, 150 cartridges and about $115,000 in cash. The man allegedly bought up the goods from poachers in order to sell them later on in China”.
The man is now facing a heavy fine or a two-year imprisonment under the article 175 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Acquisition or Sale of Property, Knowingly Obtained in a Criminal Manner). He will be also punished under the article 222 (Illegal Acquisition, Transfer, Sale, Storage, Transportation, or Bearing of Firearms, Its Basic Parts, Ammunition, Explosives, and Explosive Devices).
We are thankful to the unidentified people who informed the police about the dealer, and police officers should be applauded for their prompt and successful actions which ended up with an arrest of the dealer and seizure of tiger skins. Now, the specialists must determine the gender and age of killed animals and their range. Judging by the difference of quality the skins were processed, they are likely to have been bought in different districts of Primorye.
Sources: Komsomolskaya Pravda , PrimaMedia , RIA Novosti