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Review: Wild Mission: Siberian Tiger – Operation Snow Tiger (2013)

Directed by: Dick Sharman | 100 minutes |

Few land predators can rival the Siberian tiger (often referred to as the Amur tiger as the Amur River flows through much of its habitat) in sheer beauty and raw power. Adult males (including tail) can be more than three meters long and weigh more than two hundred to sometimes more than three hundred kilograms, just slightly larger than the equally non-childish Bengal tigers and even a lot bigger and heavier than the other tiger subspecies that still roam the earth. Because Siberian tigers are mainly found in the inhospitable, icy and often snow-covered forests of eastern Russia, they also have fur that is much thicker and woolier than that of the tigers that live in more tropical regions. Unfortunately, the Siberian tiger is also one of the rarest felines in the world. Poaching and the destruction of large areas of its habitat have reduced the wild stock to just a few hundred individuals. A very small and extremely vulnerable population, especially when you consider that some animals are not yet sexually mature or have too many years on the counter to still be able to participate in reproduction.

In the documentary “Mission Wild: Siberian Tiger”, a BBC team, together with Russian researchers, trackers, rangers and an American biologist now established in Siberia, goes the illustrious predatory cat. Because although the Siberian tiger is large, it is an animal that few human eyes have seen in the wild. You can spend years living in the habitat of the tigers that are as mysterious as they are timid without catching much more than a glimpse of the mighty predators. The near-perfect senses of Siberian tigers are much more developed than ours, a fact that, along with the innate mistrust of humans, usually means that the animals have already run away before we know that they are in the vicinity at all. to be. Footsteps in the snow are usually the only signs of their presence. Anyone who expects to be inundated with intimate images of Siberian tigers in “Mission Wild: Siberian Tiger” might be slightly disappointed after watching this two-part documentary. But that would do the an injustice, because the visual document is an extremely fascinating account of a search for an extremely elusive animal, a quest for a striped spirit of the forest that embodies the ultimate primal feeling and symbolizes the untameable wilderness that the Earth ever was. And it is precisely the rarity and untraceability of the Siberian tiger that makes the images shown in the documentary (and made with the help of camera traps) of giant cats passing, eating or marking their territory so unique.

Mission Wild: Siberian Tiger also succeeds in powerfully showing how the Siberian tiger balances between hope and fear. Fear because the numbers of sexually mature females are very low in many tiger core areas and the tabby cats are still poached despite their protected status. The latter problem comes to the fore as the team must pull out all the stops to save three cubs (long dependent on their mother) from icy deaths after their mother has been killed by poachers with near certainty. But there is also hope, in the form of a new tiger family, the recovery of a sexually mature female, the rescue of the orphan cubs and the unwavering dedication of some passionate individuals who have put their lives in the service of researching and protecting the king of the snowy forests of Usur Island.

“Mission Wild: Siberian Tiger” is a beautiful made with visible passion and offering the viewer a modest glimpse into the life of one of the most mysterious and enigmatic predators on earth.

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