Home News News Ashes to Ashes: Phoenix and the Fate of the Amur Tiger

Ashes to Ashes: Phoenix and the Fate of the Amur Tiger

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) began funding Amur tiger projects as far back as 1994, but it was in 1998, when the Phoenix Fund was founded by Sergei Bereznuk, that we gained a project partner on the ground and in the field.

And up until recently, that funding and support has been constant and contributed to nearly three decades of protection for the Amur tiger – whose fragile and isolated population stabilised and showed small indications of growth over this period.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, international outcry resulted in heavy political and financial sanctions being imposed on Russian operations and organisations. With corruption and state interference very likely, it became increasingly complicated and difficult to provide funding for Russian initiatives. However, with four decades of weathering political and other storms, and through backup contacts and long-forged relationships, we were able to ensure funding and support reached them and was used purely for conservation purposes.

However, we took precautions and planned for what we unfortunately saw as an inevitable outcome – state intervention. And we are very sad to report this has now come to a head – and Phoenix have been forced to cease operations, as Russia’s need for resources becomes even more acute.

With the foresight we had, and constant communication with Phoenix, we were able to close off our support without it being compromised.

A Farewell to Ussuri

Ussuri was our Amur tiger ambassador and was named after the region where Amur tigers – the largest tiger sub-species and one of the rarest mammals on the planet, are found. She was one of several tigers monitored by Phoenix.

She not only represented our commitment to all tigers, but actively played her part in helping her species recover its numbers, when she gave birth to two cubs in early 2022.

Ussuri with her cubs: Image credit – Phoenix Fund.

We are pleased to report that Ussuri remains alive and well, and we hope this continues to be the case. However, in late 2023, as the situation in Russia began to worsen, we made the decision to name a new tiger ambassador in the form of Kannika, an endangered Indochinese tiger – a subspecies with an estimated population of just 220 left in the wild.

What We Achieved for Russian Tigers

We of course remain hugely concerned about the impact this will have on key wildlife populations in the region and will continue to monitor the situation as best we can without an in-country partner and hope a future solution can be found before extinction becomes imminent. However, we are hopeful that the Amur tiger will endure – and are proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve with your support.

In the last five years alone, despite a global pandemic and the turbulent political and economic situation in Russia, DSWF funding has enabled over one million kilometers of foot and motorized ranger patrols to protect the Amur tiger; we have provided conservation education to 17,000 children through eco-lessons and an annual art competition; and enabled 21,000 people to participate in Tiger Day festivals to celebrate the Amur tiger. These efforts have been instrumental in ensuring that the highly endangered population of Amur tigers has remained stable in one of its last strongholds, a future which regrettably now hangs in the balance.

Future Support and Funding

We remain hugely proud of the significant work carried out in Russia thanks to your support to protect this iconic species and the dedication of our partners. We are doing our best to assist them during this difficult transition and remain steadfast supporters and friends. 

And of course, our support for endangered tigers across Asia will continue. The projects we fund and the partners we work with in India and Thailand ensure our long-term commitment to safeguarding the future of this iconic big cat.

Kannika – our new tiger ambassador. Image credit: Surya Ramachandran.

You can find out more about our tiger projects and work here, and you can support it here.

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