January 13, 2023
A Return to Bounty
- as seen by -Jonathan C. Slaght and Dale Miquelle
Lake Blagodatnoe, in the Sikhote-Alin Reserve, sits in an unassuming valley on the edge of the Sea of Japan, surrounded by a forest of oak, birch, and wetland. It is a site of dynamic wildlife interactions, where wild boar, sika deer, and elk leave tracks in the mud along the lake’s fringes, and thousands of waterbirds pause here on their annual migrations. This diversity is reflected in the name: “Blagodatnoe” means “bountiful.” Beginning in 1992, for twenty years the Wildlife Conservation Society monitored a sequence of six different Amur tigresses who made this area their home, feasting on the deer and boar and denning in the hills. Some tigers lived here only a year; one for nearly a decade. But in 2013 the last radio-collared female went “off the air” and then her tracks, which demonstrated her continued presence, soon vanished. She, like many others, had likely been poached by local hunters. That year the lake and its surroundings became less wild; a bright place made dull by a tiger’s notable absence.
In 2022, almost ten years later, reserve scientists noticed the tracks of a new female, and our camera trap monitoring captured her on film (above). She’s named Severina – from the Latin for “stern” – and she’s lingered here to mark Blagodatnoe as her own. There are also indications that she is now pregnant. The lake and its surroundings seem whole again – a natural ecosystem intact and bountiful. Our staff are more alert when they walk these forests to check camera traps, knowing that Severina is somewhere nearby, camouflaged among the auburn patches of fallen oak leaves. That a female has returned to Blagodatnoe is a ringing conservation success; a demonstration that our conservation interventions over the past decade here are finally paying dividends.