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What happens when a big cat is set free?

Extraordinary footage of one of the world's rarest tigers being released into the wild in a mountainous region in Russia's Far East shows the raw survival spirit of an animal set free. 

The young male Amul tiger was identified as a 'conflict tiger' who was living in an area with limited prey, so was considered a threat.

But after being successfully captured and collared, the Russian government decided to give him a second chance, rather than confining him to a life of captivity. 

Free at last! In a flash, the young male tiger sprints for freedom after being released in far eastern Russia
 

Free at last! In a flash, the young male tiger sprints for freedom after being released in far eastern Russia

There are now just 450 Amur tigers left in the wild living in the Primorski and Khabarovski provinces of Russia, and the border areas of China and possibly North Korea.

In the footage, as the cage door opens, the wild-eyed tiger looks angrily around, letting out a ferocious growl. On the defensive, he stands up, seeming unsure about whether to leave the cage.

But then - in a single leap, he bounds from the cage and sprints towards the foliage - a close up shot revealing the look of sheer joy on his face. Once free, the majestic cat has no intention of looking back. 

 

Named 'Uporny' – the Russian word for stubborn –  the three-year-old cat was captured around Khabarovsky province, where he had been eating dogs. 

It was believed that this could have brought him into a potential conflict situation with humans. 

AmurTigerRelease_1-1024x680.jpg
 

Uporny was given a general health check - including a fang inspection -  at the Utyos Rehabilitation Centre

He was vaccinated for common diseases and fed prey to assess his suitability for release into the wild
 

He was vaccinated for common diseases and fed prey to assess his suitability for release into the wild

Together with the WWF and the Amur Tiger Center, the Government Forest Department (Ministry of Natural Resource of Khabarovsky Province) in Russia then arranged for the tiger to be relocated back to the wild. 

But before this could happen, Uporny was taken to the Utyos Rehabilitation Center, where he was given a general health check, including an inspection of his teeth.

He was also vaccinated for common diseases and experts assessed his hunting ability and suitability for release into the wild.

Tiger handlers reveal the big cat inside its special reinforced cave
 
 

Uporny the Amur tiger sees his new home for the first time
 
 

Tiger handlers reveal the big cat inside its special reinforced cave, left, and right, Uporny see

A bid for freedom: The majestic feline takes a giant leap from his cage before sprinting off into the foliage
 

A bid for freedom: The majestic feline takes a giant leap from his cage before sprinting off into the foliage

Once the cat was ready to be released, he was fitted with a lightweight radio collar so that he can be monitored until he is established in his new home. 

Experts will track his location and eating habitats using GPS data sent from the collar as well as tracking him on the ground. Once the collar detaches, he will be monitored using camera traps.

The area he was released is a sparsely inhabited mountainous area on the border with Anyuisky National Park, one of the tiger recovery areas identified by WWF-Russia.

It a good prey base and is free of territorial male tigers, making it an ideal location to release Uporny. 

Named 'Uporny' – the Russian word for stubborn – the three-year-old tiger was captured around Khabarovsky province, where he had been eating dogs and was considered a threat to humans 
 

Named 'Uporny' – the Russian word for stubborn – the three-year-old tiger was captured around Khabarovsky province, where he had been eating dogs and was considered a threat to humans 

While he gets used to his new home in the wild, experts will track his location and eating habitats using GPS data sent from a lightweight collar around his neck
 

While he gets used to his new home in the wild, experts will track his location and eating habitats using GPS data sent from a lightweight collar around his neck

And another real bonus to the area, is that a female Amur tiger has been spotted near by, so there's a chance Uporny will breed – contributing to the recovering tiger population in Russia.

Rebecca May, Asia Regional Manager at WWF-UK said: ‘This is a very rare piece of footage, showing the release of a healthy, powerful male tiger back into the wild, where he belongs. 

'A huge team effort and great expertise was involved, including that of colleagues in WWF Russia. We wish him well in his new home.’ 



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