A rare Siberian tiger fitted by Vladimir Putin with a radio-tracking collar has vanished, a Russian environmentalist said Wednesday, dramatizing the plight of a species some conservationists fear may be approaching extinction.
Russia's prime minister drew worldwide publicity in 2008 when he shot the five-year-old female tiger with a tranquilizer gun and helped place a transmitter around her neck. That allowed visitors to his Web site to follow the animal's prowlings through Russia's wild Far East. A video of the episode is on YouTube.
But the satellite tracking device has been silent since mid-September, which could be due to battery failure, a broken collar or poachers, Vladimir Krever of the World Wildlife Fund said Wednesday.
Tigers are rapidly disappearing from the far-eastern regions of Russian due to poaching and the loss of habitat, conservationists say.
Their number may have declined by 40 per cent since 1997, the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a report released Tuesday, although another major conservation group, the World Wildlife Fund, disputed the figure.