Because these settlers required more space and were threatened by the tigers, whose natural habitat was being intruded upon, the Russians killed as many of these animals as they could. In addition to the perceived safety factor of killing the tigers, the settlers soon learnt that they could also sell tiger parts around the world for impressive amounts of money. Tigers were perceived as pests that should be destroyed.
By the 1930s, only about 25 tigers remained in the area. In 1952, Russia responded by enforcing an official ban on tiger hunting. This legal protection certainly helped the Siberian Tigers to recover their numbers, although scarcely enough to be taken off the Endangered Species list (and even the Critically Endangered list, depending on the subspecies). Today, there remain just a few hundred of these beautiful cats in the world.
Sadly, the post-Soviet era has left Russia in a transitional state of economic need. The people are not able to make the sort of money that they need as the political system moves from a socialist system to a new democracy. This has led to an increase in the illegal poaching of tigers for their body parts, which yields excellent monetary returns on the black market. One tiger skin alone can earn the seller the equivalent of up to four years salary.
In addition, the government itself is selling off huge portions of their old-growth forests to make extra money. These forests are essential habitats to the tigers, each of which roams hundreds of square kilometres as part of their territory. No forest means no safe place to live and little or no prey for the tigers.
Other political and economic issues face the tigers of China, Myanmar and other Eastern countries. Conservation is often perceived to be a luxury in the midst of economic challenges and the previous notions of tigers being a pest are very difficult to eradicate. Unstable political conditions leave nature conservation at the bottom of their list of priorities as they battle to implement more basic processes and procedures. In addition, little or no money is invested in research, frustrating the efforts of those that do have a part in helping these animals.
In areas where poaching is banned, there are seldom sufficient trained staff to enforce such laws. Economic hardships often make officials far easier to bribe. Therefore, these statutes become minor annoyances to the massive poaching cartels that are in place. These poaching laws also do not include a ban on poaching the tigers prey. So, although the tiger may be somewhat protected, there is an ever-diminishing resource of food to support it.
The survival of the tiger in a world governed by greed and corruption is, indeed, an almost impossible task.