Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) holds a five-year-old tiger's head as scientists put on a collar with satellite track on the animal in the Academy of Sciences Ussuri Reserve in Russia's Far East, on Sunday.[Agencies]
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was feted by Russian media on Sunday for saving a television crew from an attack by a Siberian tiger in the wilds of the Far East.
Putin apparently saved the crew while on a trip to a national park to see how researchers monitor the tigers in the wild.
Just as Putin was arriving with a group of wildlife specialists to see a trapped Amur tiger, it escaped and ran towards a nearby camera crew, the country's main television station said. Putin quickly shot the beast and sedated it with a tranquilizer gun.
"Vladimir Putin not only managed to see the giant predatorup close but also saved our television crew too," a presenter on Rossiya television said at the start of the main evening news.
The 55-year-old former KGB spy, who cultivated a macho image during his eight years as the Kremlin chief, was shown striding through the taiga in camouflage and desert boots before grappling with the feline foe.
He helped measure the Amur tiger's incisors before placing a satellite transmitter around the neck of the beast, which can weigh up to 450 kg and measure around three meters from nose to the tip of the tail.
Fewer than 400 Amur tigers - also known as Siberian, Ussuri or Manchurian tigers - are believed to survive in the wild, most of them in Russia and some in China.
Putin thanked Western researchers for being involved in programs to save the Amur tigers. "First of all, we must thank our colleagues, American and European colleagues for being involved with this during a difficult time for Russia when no-one was paying any attention to this," Putin said.
Putin last year made it into glossy magazines across the world by donning combat trousers and baring his muscular torso for photographers while on a fishing trip in the Yenisei river.