The amur tiger (amba): rare, beautiful, bold

Photos: Amur Tiger Center; Text: Vasily Avchenko

The Amur tiger is the permanent symbol of Vladivostok since 1881, even depicted on the city’s emblem. There are statues and images of the tiger everywhere.

Vladivostok’s residents are often asked: Is it true that you have tigers strolling throughout the city?

It’s true. Tigers go to the outskirts of villages and visit suburban forests. In 1862, the future writer, midshipman Konstantin Stanyukovich, encountered a tiger right in the center of Vladivostok. Today, though, tigers are present here only in the form of sculptures and coats of arms, although one of the main streets is called Tigrovaya (Tiger). Nearby, on the waterfront, is a bronze tiger. He fulfills the wishes of those who hold his fang.

The Amur tiger (also known as the Manchurian, Siberian, and Ussuri) is the largest in the world. This southern animal is perfectly adapted to the Sikhote-Alin frosts. It reaches 3.8 meters in length (with the tail) and weighs 160-270 kg. Being at the top of the food chain, the tiger is an indicator of the state of nature: if there is a tiger in the taiga, then everything is in order with the hoofed animals, and with the forest as a whole.

Arsenyevsky’s Dersu Usala believed: happy is he who has never seen, much less killed a tiger. The indigenous people of Primorye revered the tiger, or amba, as the chief deity of the taiga. Nikolai Baikov, native of Harbin, named a book about the tiger “Velikiy Van”, which means the owner…

There are now 500 tigers in the wild, mostly in Primorye. By the 1940s, the tiger was on the verge of extinction, but now its population is stable. The ban on tiger hunting and the creation of a network of reserves did their job. Today, scientists know the face of almost every tiger. In 2008 Vladimir Putin participated in the immobilization and radio collaring of an Ussuri tiger. Those in attendance remember how he kissed the sleeping beauty. Vladivostok musician Ilya Lagutenko also joined the tiger conservation efforts. “Tiger: rare, beautiful, bold! That’s my characterization of the tiger and music of Mumiy Troll”, he says.

Coat of Primorsky Territory

Since 1881, the tiger has been a permanent symbol of Vladivostok and Primorye: and is depicted on the emblems of the city and the province. On the last Sunday in September Vladivostok holds Tiger Day, a folk holiday created by Primorye writer, Vladimir Troinin.

SEAGULLS

Photos: Anastasia Kvashina (Look at Vladivostok); Text: Andrey Khaustov

If a seagull lands on the water, expect good weather! (maritime superstition)

It is believed that every seaside city has a particularly reverent relationship with the sea gull, as it is the symbol of everything connected with the sea, the native shore, freedom and independence. The seagull for the sailor, they say, is the most important bird. Its appearance on the ship brings good luck and forecasts the imminent arrival home. It was once believed that seagulls were inhabited by the souls of dead sailors...

The seagull’s image is unquestioningly present in Vladivostok’s city symbolism. On company logos and activities, in urban toponymy. Or the delightful handmade seagulls, sewn by renown artist and designer, Laura Koles.

But in our city by the sea, the relationship with these birds in everyday life is rather prosaic. They are just part of the environment, a constant, the same as the sea itself, mists, the foghorn of ships, or the 7-hour time difference with Moscow. You are not likely to hear a rapturous ode to the seagull from someone in Vladivostok. Yes, you may, of course, talk about its symbolic meaning, its beauty and grace. However, closer acquaintance with a seagull does not cause particularly warm feelings: its character is wretched and thieving. It is no wonder, then, when someone profits at the expense of others, that person is sometimes called a seagull. And if something falls unintentionally under the attack of a seagull, the romantic image dissipates without a trace.

Several years ago a group of enthusiasts proposed the creation of a monument in Vladivostok called, “The Seagull on the Waves.” The discussion lasted for 2 years. The city budget could not achieve the allocation of funds for the monument. And the money could not be raised privately.

THE RAREST CAT ON THE PLANET

Photos: Emmanuel Rondeau; Теxt: Vasily Avchenko

The Far Eastern leopard is graceful and strong, cunning and bold. This predator is yet another contender for the taiga’s throne.

The Far Eastern leopard is called the rarest cat on the planet. More 150 years ago, this leopard was driven from Korea to North East China and the southern part of Primorye. By the beginning of the 21st century the Khasan District in South West Primorye has become the leopard’s last bastion, and is home to about fifty animals.

To save the leopard, a few years ago the National Park “Zemlya Leoparda” (Land of the Leopard) was created. From 2007 to 2013 the number of leopards has grown by half: from 30 to 47 individuals. There are grounds for cautious optimism: camera traps occasionally record the arrival of new kittens. But experts believe that to be considered stable, the population must reach 100-120 cats.

Scientists know Far Eastern leopards “by their faces”, and can tell animals apart from each other by their unique patterns of spots. Each of them receives a passport and even a name. The Primorye Governer Miklushevsky named his spotted godson Dersu; musician Lagutenko, Meamurom; Gazprom patriotically dubbed their beast Crimea; and the Admiral hockey club chose the name Valera, in honor of the legendary forward Kharlamov.

As with the tiger, there are all sorts of myths connected with the leopard in Primorye. One of the relatively new myths relates to the border. At border crossings in Primorye, young soldiers say that the leopard can supposedly whistle. Whistling, the leopard beckons service dogs and eats them...

One of the leopards lives in Beregovy Village on the west side of the Amur Bay. The village is inside the Vladivostok City District limits, which means you may boldly declare: Leopards are found directly in Vladivostok.