A Viral PoacherWith a name like that, you'd think that canine distemper wouldn't be too dangerous for felines like Amur Tigers (aka Siberian Tigers), but sadly, that's not the case. The mysterious disease that recently caused the death of many Amur Tigers has been identified by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and by Russian health and veterinary organizations.
Canine distemper is a deadly viral disease which causes symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, labored breathing, dehydration and various neurological problems (Wikipedia has a good list).
"With all the threats facing Siberian tigers--from poaching and habitat loss--relatively little research has been done on diseases that may afflict tigers," WCS Director of Russia Programs Dale Miquelle said in a prepared statement. "There are no records of tigers entering villages and behaving so abnormally before 2000, so this appears to be a new development and new threat. Understanding whether disease is a major source of mortality for Siberian tigers is crucial for future conservation efforts." (source)
Finding the source of the infection is the next step. If it is domesticated dogs, the likely solution would be to vaccinate them. Vaccinating the tigers directly would be almost impossible...
These tiger deaths are especially sad because Amur Tigers are extremely endangered and are estimated to number only 250 to 300 individuals in the wild.
More on Tigers
Bangladesh Creates Special Task Force to Protect Endangered Bengal Tiger
India Says Wild Tiger Population Up by 15%, But Some Doubt that Number
Fewer than 50 Wild Tigers Left in China, Says Wildlife Conservation Society
Mass Grave Containing Rare Animals (Tigers, Lions, Leopards, etc) Discovered
Chinese Zoo Accused of Letting 11 Rare Siberian Tigers Starve to Death