A few years ago I would have never imagined that I would find myself in the vast forests of Far East Russia in search of the world’s largest cat: The Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger. But there I was, trudging in knee-deep snow among frozen trees carrying loads of gear doing exactly that.
Setting DSLR camera traps in this remote winter wilderness is my most ambitious project so far. The severe cold of down to -45C challenges the limits of the equipment. But the greatest challenge is to actually find a Siberian tiger. These great cats are not only rare, but extremely alert. They often stop their approach and then bypass the sensor, as you can see from their path in the snow.
Their careful nature is their life insurance. Amur tigers remain highly endangered as poachers hunt them for their body parts. And the growing demand for hardwood in neighboring China is stripping Russia’s taiga forests not only of pine trees, but also of the oak and ash trees. Pine nuts are a key food source for deer and wild boar, the Amur tiger’s primary prey. Fewer trees translate to less food for tigers.