This picture of the endangered Amur, or Siberian, tiger is one of only a very few taken in the wild without the use of a camera trap. It's also almost certainly the best - the reward for spending months in a cramped hide. Toshiji has been photographing wildlife in the Russian Far East for more than 20 years, and he knows how hugely difficult it is to see an Amur tiger in its woodland habitat. So when he heard that tiger tracks had been found on the shore of the Sea of Japan in Russia's Lazovsky Nature Reserve, he knew this was his chance. The enticement was sika deer, driven by hunger to feed on seaweed on the shore. Toshiji's Russian colleague dug a hole into the steep slope overlooking the beach and in it built a tiny hut. There they lived, in cold, cramped boredom, for the next 74 days. Occasionally, at night, Toshiji heard growling, and was glad of an electric fence around the hut. But he knew that the chances of seeing a tiger in daylight were slim. Of the 300 or so Amur tigers left in the wild - under constant pressure from poaching and forest destruction - no more than 12 inhabit the reserve. On day 50, he was woken by crows screeching in alarm. The clouds had cleared; it was a beautiful, sunny morning. And there, just 150 metres away, was a tiger. 'The scene was divine - it was as if the goddess of the Taiga had appeared to me.' That was the only time he saw the female, but she allowed him to achieve his lifelong dream, to photograph a wild Amur tiger.
Nikon D3 + 200-400mm lens; 1/1600 sec at f9; ISO 220.
Lazovsky Nature Reserve, Primorski Krai, Russia
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