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WILD NATURE

Rare Siberian Tiger Found in Farmer's Woodpile

A male Siberian Tiger cub nuzzles up to his mother in the exhibition area at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium in 2006.AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

A Siberian tiger -- one of the rarest animals in the world -- has been found trapped in a farmer’s woodpile in snowbound northeastern China.

The Siberian tiger cub is the first to be seen in its mountainous home in the 60 years since the Communists took power in China; the discovery of evidence that the endangered animal is reproducing in the wild has delighted experts.

Only about 20 Siberian, or Amur, tigers, still roam wild in forests and mountains along the China-Russia border.

A forestry worker got a shock at dawn on February 25 when he heard a series of roars emerging from his woodpile. His three dogs were barking incessantly. He saw a large animal trapped inside. He thought the beast could be a tiger, an animal so rare that he refused to believe his eyes.

He called in the police and four hours later a team of eight men arrived. They realized that the animal had been trapped by a log that had fallen but each time they approached it roared. Police team leader Sun Chengli decided to call in wildlife experts.

It would take them a day to reach the remote farm. Policeman Sun tossed a chicken to the frightened animal, which managed to eat only about half. Then he and his men kept watch all night. He said: "The tiger didn't sleep and so we never closed our eyes. It was very nervous, any time we approached, it roared."

The following morning two veterinarians arrived. They assessed the size and age of what the police were now certain was a tiger cub and used a blow pipe to shoot a tranquillizer dart. Eight minutes later the cub was unconscious.

The cub, a female, was given a checkup and was found to have no injuries other than the loss of some fur from one leg. She still had her milk teeth, was estimated to be about eight or nine months old, measured just under three feet and weighed 63.7 pounds -- compared with 88 pounds for a cub reared in captivity.

For more on this story, see the Times of London.