The first wild Siberian tiger ever fitted with a radio collar was killed by poachers, officials believe.
The 14-year-old tiger, Olga, has been missing since January. She is presumed to have been killed by poachers who destroyed her radio collar, according to a statement released Thursday by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Wearing the collar for 13 years, Olga roamed a 200-square-mile (500-square-kilometer) swath of forest north of Terney in the Russian Far East. She gave birth to six litters totaling at least 13 cubs, six of which survived.
The well-known tiger appeared in National Geographic's "Tigers in the Snow" documentary.
File photo of Olga being equipped with a new radio collar. Credit: John Goodrich/Wildlife Conservation Society
"To our knowledge, Olga is the oldest, and the most intensively studied tiger in the world," said Dale Miquelle, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Russia Program and one of the people who first radio-collared Olga. "For many of us, Olga was a symbol of the tiger's resilience and capacity to live side by side with humans."
Since January, scientists have been unable to locate the collar's signal despite extensive aerial and ground searches. Staff of the Siberian Tiger Project have documented other cases in which lost signals from radio collars were result from poachers killing tigers and destroying collars.
Of 23 tiger deaths recorded by the project, 17 were at the hands of poachers.
"Olga has been living in the same place for 14 years and resident tigers don't just pack up and move long distances," said WCS conservationist John Goodrich. "It's unlikely that her collar failed. We've used about 100 radio-collars on tigers and bears during the life of the project and have only documented one premature collar failure."
Tigers are considered extremely rare, and in danger of extinction throughout their range.
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