He pushed with all his weight, but still, the door wouldn't open. Thrusting his shoulder to the door, he pushed harder until he felt it give a little. It must be the snow that was blocking it. Then, in the silence of the snowy morning, a low growling ripped through the air and turned the blood in his veins to ice.
Alexey Khaideyev lived in a small Siberian village on the edge of Solontsovy, bordering the largely untouched wilderness of the Khabarovsk region. The area is known for its wildlife and endless vistas of ice and snow. Little did Alexey know, he was about to have a close encounter with the biggest land predator on earth.
Alexey awoke to the eerie silence of a snowy morning. He pulled on his gloves and jacket and jogged down the stairs. He poured himself a cup of coffee and made his way to the front door to admire the snow-laden landscape. But, when he tried to open it, he was met with resistance. Thinking it must be blocked by snow from the outside, he pushed harder.
My Shoes Abroad
It was not uncommon for houses to become snowed in during winter. Alexey sighed as he thought of the mass of snow collecting on his roof during the night, and then falling down onto the porch. He should have salted his roof more thoroughly, he thought. And now he was stuck inside the house.
Pushing harder on the door, Alexey tried to move it again. It started to open a crack but wouldn't move beyond that. It was as though someone was pushing from the other side. Someone immensely strong. But who would be pushing on the other side of Alexey's door? He peered around the doorframe, and he heard the sound that made his scramble for his phone.
A low growl sent terror shooting through Alexey's body, and he slammed the door shut. Fear rose in waves, up his legs and into his mouth. He bit his tongue to stop himself from screaming. With his phone in his hand, he crept towards the door again. He had to see what was behind it.
Inching the door open a crack once more, Alexey quickly peered outside. When he was sure that nobody was playing a prank on him, his fear grew even more. Then, through the crack, he saw a flash of unmistakable orange, and what looked like snow-covered fur. He shakily dialed 911, fearing for his life.
The authorities didn't believe Alexey, at first. They suspected that someone had made a prank call. But something about the quiver in his voice made them question everything. The man described what he had seen, and explained that he couldn't leave his house -- there was a large, dangerous animal blocking him in. A unit was dispatched to his address, but the police couldn't believe their eyes when they arrived.
The police arrived on the scene and stared at the orange mass on Alexey's porch in disbelief. It was enormous, and lying right against the front door. But it was extremely unusual for such an animal to wander into the village inhabited by humans. Why was it there? But as they leaned closer to the growling beast, they realized that something was very wrong.
Upon seeing the Amur tiger on Alexey's porch, the police immediately called the Ministry of Natural Resources of Khabarovsk, in hopes that they could help them to ascertain what was wrong with the massive animal. But they were slow to arrive, as the roads were covered in heavy snow. Time was running out for the tiger.
“The tiger spent all the day on Alexey’s porch until the emergency team arrived,” Galina, Alexey's neighbor, explained in an interview. Thankfully, the rescuers eventually arrived and were able to tranquilize the tiger to examine her. But when they pried her massive jaws open, they saw why she had collapsed on the porch.
The tiger had suffered from dental problems, and she had no front teeth. She had severe infections in her gums, which would have made it difficult for her to hunt and eat her natural prey. The lack of proper nutrition was showing in her body, too, and she was severely malnourished. But did that explain why she had ventured into the village?
The rescuers knew that time was of the essence for this tiger, and quickly transported her to the Amur Tiger Center. Director of the center, Sergey Aramilev, said, “The tigress behaved absolutely peacefully as if she was waiting for human help.” Rescuers believe that she was driven to the village out of desperation, and they rushed to give her the care she needed.
Amur Tiger Center
The Amur Tiger Center is situated in Alekseevka, Primorsky Krai, and was established by the Russian Geographical Society in 2013. The center and its staff are absolutely dedicated to treating and protecting the rare and endangered species, and as a reward for their efforts, the population of Amur tigers is slowly back on the rise. But what could they do for this poor tiger?
On arrival, however, the tiger reverted to her wild ways, snarling and snapping at all who tried to help her. This posed an enormous problem, as they couldn't get near enough to her to treat her. “The animal, though she came for help, will not allow us to approach her,” explained Sergey.
World Wildlife Fund
“In her current physical condition, it is deadly to put her under an anesthetic; yet without this, it is impossible to carry out ‘active’ treatment,” he added. Nevertheless, they knew they had to help the suffering tiger, so they devised a way to administer antibiotics without getting too close to her swiping claws.
This tiger was part of a dying species, with only about 500 Siberian tigers left in the wild in Eastern Russia, and being female, she was an essential part of ensuring the continuation of the magnificent animals. So, the rescuers decided to give the tiger minced meat with antibiotics hidden inside. They needed to fight her infections before they could perform any kind of dental surgery.
The tiger appeared to be on the mend after she was given antibiotics, but the staff at the center are still unsure. “We will not hide that the situation with the tigress is sad,” said Sergey Aramilev. “Now everything depends on her. We really hope that the tigress will pick herself up and survive. For our part, we are doing everything possible.”
Meanwhile, there is good news about the endangered tiger species. Amur tigers are the largest cats in the world -- weighing in at 700lb and growing to 10ft long. In 1995, there were around 370 Amur tigers left in the Siberian wilderness. Thanks to the efforts of conservation, that number has nearly doubled.
Imagine Alexey’s surprise when he opened his door to see one of these extremely elusive animals, right there on his porch! He was terrified, but he understood that she needed help. And the tiger followed her instincts, too -- it was truly lucky that she decided to rest at startled Alexey's door. Only time will tell what will happen to these majestic animals, but conservationists are certainly on the right track.