A Russian census released this month indicates that there are 480 to 520 Amur tigers living in the Russian edge of Siberia, bringing the total population up to 600. Woo!

Now, 600 is still a pathetically small number – but it sure beats the hell out of 40, which is where the population stood eighty years ago thanks to our old friends, poaching and habitat destruction.

Unfortunately, the population isn’t going to get any bigger than this. Biologists say the region can’t support any more of the big cats (you need a lot of deer and boars to feed a big predator like this).  That’s not very many tigers – the survival of this subspecies is still not guaranteed. And considering that a tiger skeleton fetches $5,000 in China, where the bones are ground up for “medicine,” we would be wise not to break out the champagne just yet.

… Especially considering that the other big Siberian cat, the amur leopard – the world’s rarest cat – is still teetering on the edge of existence: there are only 40 of them left.

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