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Tiger's fate could swing whole population

Monday 15 Jul 2013 7:04 p.m.

Cinderella is a young Siberian, or Amur, tiger returning to the wild with a vigorous leap.

They call her Zaloushka in Russia and many there think the future of the species now rests on her youthful shoulders.

She was starving and frostbitten when they found her, and her mother had been killed by poachers. But instead of asking a zoo to take her on, the conservationists tried something new.

They built a large enclosure in the wilderness and took on the job of Cinderella's mother. They began preparing her for life in the wild. It was an ambitious idea – something that hasn't been tried before.

Cinderella spent a year in her enclosure, with human contact kept to an absolute minimum. When the team decided to move her back into the wild, Cinderella was tranquilised, measured up and prepared for the journey ahead.

The experts desperately hope she'll find a partner to breed with because the Amur tiger is threatened with extinction. There are only 350 left in the wild but she'll have to survive the rigours of the open forest and the poachers who inhabit it.

Eric Ash of the Freeland Foundation, an organisation against wildlife trafficking, says the most immediate threat to the tigers is the illegal wildlife trade.

"There is a demand for parts, whether it be tiger bones for tiger-bone wine, skins. In the Russian Far East tigers are being killed using snares."

But this is a bit of good news, not a fairytale ending exactly, but Cinderella is doing well, living off the land and looking for a mate.

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