For the first time, a family of endangered Amur tigers have been photographed in the wild showing the adult male, followed by the adult female and three cubs, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced Friday.
A composite photo of a series of images snapped from the forests of the Russian Far East shows the entire family as it walked past a camera trap.
"We have collected hundreds of photos of tigers over the years, but this is the first time we have recorded a family together," said Svetlana Soutyrina, deputy director for scientific programs at the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve who set the camera traps. "These images confirm that male Amur tigers do participate in family life, at least occasionally, and we were lucky enough to capture one such moment."
Here's a slideshow of the passing tigers in video form:
A network of camera traps were established throughout the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park (adjacent protected areas) as part of a 2014-15 project to better understand the number of endangered Amur tigers in the region.
The biggest surprise was the series of 21 photographs showing the entire family of Amur tigers passing the same camera trap in the span of two minutes.
"Although WCS's George Schaller documented sporadic familial groups of Bengal tigers as early as the 1960s, this is the first time such behavior has been photographed for Amur tigers in the wild," WCS Russia director Dr. Dale Miquelle said. "These photos provide a small vignette of social interactions of Amur tigers, and provide an evocative snapshot of life in the wild for these magnificent animals."
Every 10 years an ambitious survey is conducted involving hundreds of scientists, hunters and volunteers to determine an estimate as to the number of remaining endangered Amur tigers in the wild. In 2005, there were an estimated 430 to 500 tigers.
Results of the survey taken in February will be released by summer.