"This is a great day for Bastak Reserve" Aleksandr Yuryevich Kalinin, director of the protected area, said in a press release. "This demonstrates that there is still suitable habitat for tigers in the Pri-Amur region of the Russian Far East, and there is a place for tigers here."
WCS Russia Director Dale Miquelle added: "This is a watershed event not just for Zolushka [ the Russian name for Cinderella ], but for the entire population of Amur tigers. These births mark the return of tigers to habitat that had been lost, and the beginnings of a recovery and expansion of the last remaining Amur tiger population into habitat lost years ago."
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Cinderella has clearly found her prince (or he found her), given her growing family. Even so, the scientists refrain from calling this a fairy tale, given all of the hard work that it took to rescue and release Cinderella.
Hunters originally encountered her in February 2012. She was at the southwestern portion of Primorskii Krai, one of the last strongholds of the Amur, or Siberian, tiger. Cinderella, then a four-month-old orphaned tiger cub, was starving and suffering from severe frostbite at her tail area.
She was taken to the local wildlife manager, who had to surgically remove the tip of her tail. She was then transferred to the Aleksayevka Rehabilitation Center, managed by Inspection Tiger and supported by the Russian Geographical Society.
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They cleverly isolated Cinderella from humans, so that she would not become acclimated to our species, yet provided care and allowed her to gradually learn to hunt. In May 2013, when she was 20 months old, she was released into the Bastak Reserve. Tigers normally leave their mothers at that age, hence the timing of her release.
Since then, the researchers believe that she has been hunting badgers, wild boar and red deer that have relatively large populations at the site.
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The reserve was devoid of tigers for nearly 40 years until Cinderella's release, so her prince charming was attracted from another region. It's believed that he trekked some 125 miles before mating with Cinderella, so he really worked to make their family happen!
Cristián Samper, president and CEO of the WCS, said: "The story of this Cinderella is no fairy tale. The discovery of Zolushka's cubs is real proof that conservation on the ground, conducted by groups working in partnership, can and does work. Zolushka and her cubs are proof that tiger habitat lost long ago is coming back in the Russian Far East."