The population of rare Siberian tigers - once on the verge of extinction- appears to have stabilised in Russia's Far East, according to a new survey.
Poaching has posed the gravest threat to the tigers
Researchers found that numbers of the species in the region are about the same now as they were in 1996.
Environmentalists say the tigers' survival is due to conservation projects and local education programmes.
But the World Wildlife Fund has warned the tigers remain threatened by
wildlife trade and human settlement.
About 1,000 field workers tracked the animals' paw prints in the snow in the remote and densely forested regions of Primorye and Khabarovsk, where most of the tigers live.
They found more than 4,000 tracks and deduced up to 417 adult and 112 cubs remain in the area.
The project was partly funded by Russia's ministry of natural resources.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Moscow said the findings showed greater funding for anti-poaching efforts and education programmes for local residents had borne fruit.
"Ten years ago, among the local population, the tiger was seen as a dangerous animal to be feared," said WWF spokeswoman Yekaterina Babina.
"Now they understand that the tiger is their heritage, their wealth... There is a deeper understanding that it's absolutely necessary to protect the tigers."
However, the survey notes the tigers' population has declined elsewhere in Asia, where its hide and bones are highly prized for uses including traditional Chinese medicine.