Touched By Putin

Putin and Animals 1

Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

Russia and the world saw the president puts the collar on the Amur tigress. Then there were more tigers, snow leopards, white whales and even the famous flight with Siberian Cranes. (See my own timely post on the subject  Vox Populi, Siberian Cranes  And Putin in Machina from Jan. 13, 2013.)

Whatever happened to the “presidential” tigers, Siberian Cranes, leopards and whales — all those animals, birds and sea creatures blessed by magic touch of Vladimir Putin?

On August 31, 2008, Vladimir Putin visited the Ussuri Nature Reserve, and “took a shot” at tigress Serga from a pneumatic gun charged with a potent tranquilizers.  Then he helped to put a  GPS-collar on a sleeping animal. Serga is still a resident of the Ussuri reserve. Twice she brought kittens, and the third litter was expected at the time Serga was observed in the wild.

Putin and Animals 2

In 2008, Putin helped to put GPS-collar on a tigress Serga (Earring). Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

On May 22, 2014, during one of his working visits to the Primorsky Krai, Putin visited the wild life refuge “Zheludinsky.” Together with zoologists, he unleashed tigers Borya, Kuzya and Ilona with electronic chips to monitor their movements.

This story was preceded by the sad events. A few years back, in the forest, were found three tiger kittens — later named Borya, Kuzya and Ilona — hungry and exhausted. Their mothers were killed by poachers. Kittens were sent to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of tigers in Primorye.  For nearly 2 years scientists groomed the animals for be reintroduced to their natural habitat.  Vladimir Putin was invited to take part in the event. Everyone was excited: the president, the scientists and the three little “tigretts”.

One of the tigers in the refuge "Zheludinsky" Primorye Photo: Dmitry Azarov / "Kommersant"

One of the tigers in the refuge “Zheludinsky” Primorye
Photo: Dmitry Azarov / “Kommersant”

Tiger Kuzya, exploring the surroundings in search of future residence, swam across Amur River (some 700 meters wide) thus crossing the Russian-Chinese border. Chinese  scientists were warned about the arrival of a distinguished guest and were ready to provide a heard of cows to feed him. However, such welcoming gift would have drastically altered the whole program — the tiger was trained to hunt in the wild and survive on its own. Two months later, after tasting plenty of Chinese wild boars, Kuzya safely returned home, crossing Amur once again when the river has frozen over. Now Kuzya resides in the vicinity of ​​the wild life refuge Zuraviliny.

Borya and Ilona reside in the Amur region. Ilona settled in Khingansky refuge, occasionally giving visitors a rare chance on a “tiger selfie”.  Once, while in a foul mood, she found a comfort food in a rather expensive scientific equipment and cameras set up specifically to capture her image.

Borya was spotter not far from the place of his release. He looks healthy and very well-fed. His hunting trophies include at least one bear. The quietest of them all, the tigress Sveta, dwells in the area where Kuzya recently moved. Scientists hope for the two of them to meet and, perhaps, fall in love.

On the video, Zolushka (Cinderella), a young Amur tigress whose fate is similar to that of  Borya, Kuzya and Ilona, is being released into the wild.

And now back to Putin.  On the eve of the Olympics, Vladimir Putin entered the cage of a beast once again. This time it was an Amur leopard.

Note: The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) also known as the Far Eastern leopard, is a leopard subspecies native to the Primorye region of southeasternRussia and the Jilin Province of northeast China. It is classified as Critically Endangered since 1996 by IUCN. In 2007, only 19–26 wild Amur leopards were estimated to survive. Census data published in February 2015 indicate that the population has increased to at least 57 Amur leopards in Russia, and up to 12 Amur leopards in adjacent areas of China.

On February 4, 2014, Putin visited the leopard breeding and rehabilitation center in Sochi. The President was informed that adult leopards can mate up to 274 times a week. Putin immediately turned to one of the journalists, “274 times! Take an example!”

Six-month old leopard  kitten named Grom (Thunder, in Russian) was very nervous when unexpectedly visited by so many guests. Agitated, he jumped one of the journalists, scratched the hapless photographer’s hand and sank his teeth into the operator’s knee. The rest of Putin’s entourage choose to retreat. Putin, however, was able to charm the little guy: in a few minutes, the leopard kitten settled on Putin’g lap and purred when the president touched his paws and stroked his chin.

Putin and Animals 3

In 2014, Putin entered the aviary to six months leopard Grom (Thunder). Photo: Alexei Nikolsky / RIA Novosti / Reuters

“Little leopard had never seen Putin before and wasn’t trained to meet the president in any way whatsoever. Big cats clearly feel the person’s aura. Little Grom felt Putin’s protectiveness and his confidence. Journalists, on the other hand, disregarded warnings and crowded the cage,” commented Umar Semyonov, the center’s director.

A bit of brown-nosing here from Mr Semyonov, but never mind — after all the center of rehabilitation is funded by the government.

Grom is a full grown adult Amur leopard now. He won’t be released into the wild because he got used to humans and won’t be able to survive on his own. For now, Grom resides at the center, later he might travel to some European zoo to improve the leopard’s genetic line. Several other young leopards will be released from the center. Unlike Grom, they weren’t exposed to human contact — men and beasts must remain strangers, even if man is Putin.

Putin and Animals 4

In 2012, Putin took part in an experiment to save Siberian Cranes, rare species listed in the Red Book. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

On September 6, 2012, while on the Yamal Peninsula, Putin took part in an experiment to save the Siberian Cranes, yet another rare species listed in the Red Book. The aim of the experiment was to show the nursery-grown birds a flying route for migration to warmer climes. The experiment was not as successful as the scientists (and Putin) hoped for.

Inclement weather and political problems of 2012 halted planned motorized migration of Siberian Cranes. Only one of the birds, male named Para, eventually joined migrating flock of Eurasian Cranes and flew with them from Belozersky reserve, located in the south of the Tyumen region, to Kazakhstan. During one of the stops, the flock was attacked by a pack of stray dogs.  The wild birds flew away, leaving injured and crippled Para behind. Para was saved by the locals. The bird was identified by a special label and sent back to Russia.

In the end, Para remained to live with people, fed and cared for by employees dressed in white suits) crane. An object of special attention of the people and the media, Para has become tame. Similar fate befell another Siberian Crane named Vorona (Crow in Russian). Both Para and Vorona were later resettled to zoos and successfully bred in captivity.

The fate of а male Siberian Crane named Saval turned out sad and tragic. Saval was mortally injured as a result of intraspecific aggression. For scientists it played out like a very personal drama.

Putin and Animals 5

In 2009, Putin fed belugas contained in cage on the Chkalov Island in the Sea of Okhotsk. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / RIA Novosti

In July 31, 2009, during his working trip to Khabarovsk region  President Putin visited Chkalov Island in the Sea of ​​Okhotsk. Dressed in a wet suit, waist-deep in the water, Putin helped the group of fishermen to strengthen the satellite transmitter on the back of beluga named Dasha. “She won’t eat us, I hope,” said the President, patting the whale.

Then Putin decided to feed the belugas. Scientists kept saying that belugas never take food from human hands. But — surprise! — Dasha happily swallowed the fish it snatched from the presidential hand. “Gentle, be ve-e-e-e-ry gentle and you’ll succeed,” Putin said and smiled… gently.

For Russian readers, see more on Lenta.ru, the article Жизнь после Путина. Что стало с «президентскими» тиграми, стерхами, леопардами и китами.

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