An endangered tiger set free in Russia has killed 18 Chinese goats after crossing the frontier, with Beijing’s state media saying on Wednesday that the feline felon had been freed by President Vladimir Putin.
The Siberian tiger, named Ustin, wreaked caprine carnage as it carried out repeated nighttime raids on a farm on a border island, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Five goats were killed on one night and 13 on another, Xinhua said, adding experts were pointing the finger at Ustin after its footprints were found around Guo’s goat house and on the roof.
Xinhua said the tiger was one of five big cats released into the wild by Putin in May.
But according to the Kremlin’s website and multiple reports at the time, Putin only freed three tigers — Kuzya, Borya and Ilona.
Ustin and another feline, Svetlaya, were set free in a separate location in June, without the presence of the Russian leader, who is known for his outdoor stunts involving animals.
All five cubs had been found starving in the Russian taiga two years ago, and were rescued, treated, and taught to hunt before being released.
The island where the goat attacks occurred, known as Bolshoi Ussuriysky in Russian and Heixiazi in Chinese, was the subject of a border dispute between the two powers before they agreed to divide it in 2004.
Relations between Beijing and Moscow have warmed significantly in recent years, with Russia turning to its Asian neighbour as a trading partner as the US and Europe have enforced harsh sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.
Russia is a major exporter of raw materials to China, often from the Siberian region which is home to the big cats, also known as Amur tigers.
Hundreds of them once roamed the lush pine and oak forests of Manchuria, but due to centuries of poaching only a couple of dozen are believed to still survive in China.
Listed as “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, they have fared better in Russia, where more than 400 still live, sometimes preying on local bears.
Local authorities vowed to compensate the farmer for his lost animals, Xinhua said, but added that he was encouraged “to relocate his goats or further reinforce the farm,” to avoid further attacks.
Meanwhile Guo “is stressed about the tiger and was busy clearing the bodies of dead goats,” Xinhua said.