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Tiger relocates to Yorkshire as part of breeding plan
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Tiger relocates to breed

Mike Dilger
BBC Yorkshire Inside Out Wildlife reporter

It's been a big year for big cats in South Yorkshire. Not content with the unprecedented recent arrival of a mere 13 lions rescued from frankly awful conditions in Romania.

The staff at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) have now had their heads turned by another top cat.

The next feline superstar planned to be unveiled to an adoring Yorkshire public this Easter will be an Amur or Siberian tiger called Vladimir.

The sub-species of tiger is so highly threatened in the wild that the surviving population is thought to consist of no more than 400 in their final eastern Siberia stronghold.

Unlike the lion story, where the main motivating factor behind the move to Yorkshire was to give the animals the chance to see out their remaining days in comparative luxury.

The tigers presented the opportunity to be part of an exciting project to ensure that Amur tigers don't follow the ways of the Caspian and Bali tigers; a race already consigned to the history books.

Male tiger, Vladimir, from the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore, Scotland
Inside Out: BBC1 across Yorkshire on Monday 7 March from 1930 GMT

Vladimir is a two-year-old male, weighing a massive 160kg and just coming into the prime of life. If he could be brought down to Doncaster and persuaded to settle into his new surroundings then the Park would be given permission to reach out to the wider European Zoo community to advertise for a mate for Vladimir.

The subsequent arrival of tiger cubs would of course be the dream scenario for the ambitious team in Yorkshire. It would be a vital stepping-stone to the ultimate goal of joining the Amur tiger captive-breeding programme.

With the Amur tigers threatened with extinction in the wild, the captive population is able to maintain a genetic variability.

Vladimir was born and brought up at the Highland Wildlife Park near Inverness in Scotland and had spent the first two years of life in a large three-hectare enclosure with his mother and two sisters. Previously harmonious, it has recently been a case of "three's company, but four's a crowd" as an adolescent Vlad has either been throwing his weight around or overly-amorous to his siblings.

The radio crackled into life... "He's in, but not happy!"
Mike Dilger

The Yorkshire Wildlife Park staff were keen to avoid having to dart Vladimir, a risky procedure at the best of times. So, in conjunction with Vladimir's current keepers in Scotland, they have been training Vlad for a number of weeks to walk into a secure crate for tit-bits of food.

D-day duly arrived for Vladimir's move down south and the small posse which consisted of YWP and the BBC film crew shivering whilst they waited for word by radio, a safe distance away that they had managed to entice Vlad into the crate.

The radio crackled into life... "He's in, but not happy!" We charged up to the tiger enclosure and on our arrival we could see the crate rocking, as a very angry Vlad realised he had been tricked.

Moving such a dangerous cargo isn't easy - and is highly specialised work. Geoff, the animal transporter, assured me that there was no way he could escape. However, travelling 400 miles with a potential man-eater in the back was a slightly nervous experience.

There were checks en route to make sure he was OK and Vladimir seemed to take the eight-hour road journey in his stride. Unloading him in Doncaster though was another tense experience. Everyone, including the tiger, was a little bit tired and emotional.

Did Vladimir enter his new enclosure OK and has he settled in? Well, for that you'll just have to tune in to find out.

Watch Inside Out across Yorkshire on BBC1 on Monday 7 March at 1930 GMT as Mike Dilger travels with the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Team to bring the tiger, Vladimir to Yorkshire...




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Yorkshire Wildlife Park
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