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Rare tiger family caught on camera in Siberia

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A male Amur tiger leads his family through a park in Russia.

Maybe male tigers aren't quite the loners they were thought to be.

A new collection of camera trap photos from the Wildlife Conservation Society's Russia Program shows an adult male Amur tiger, also known as a Siberian tiger, leading his family through the snow in the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park.

It is the first time, scientists said, that a tiger dad was shown in a family setting, rather than their stereotypical role as a solitary cat. The male tiger is seen in a series of 21 photographs leading a female and three cubs through the snow.

"We have collected hundreds of photos of tigers over the years, but this is the first time we have recorded a family together," Svetlana Soutyrina, a former WCS Russia employee and currently the Deputy Director for Scientific Programs at the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve. "These images confirm that male Amur tigers do participate in family life, at least occasionally, and we were lucky enough to capture one such moment."

The photos resulted from a 2014-2015 project establishing a network of camera traps across both Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park (adjacent protected areas). The goal of the effort is to gain a better understanding about the number of endangered Amur tigers in the region.

The exact population size of Amur tigers is difficult to estimate. Every ten years an ambitious, range-wide survey is conducted that involves hundreds of scientists, hunters and volunteers. The results of the most recent of these surveys, undertaken in February, will be released by this summer. In 2005, the last time a range-wide survey was conducted, it was estimated there were just 430 to 500 Amur tigers remaining in the wild.

Along with the Amur tigers, camera traps in Russia have been used to track another endangered cat - the Amur leopard. The latest images showed that the world's rarest leopard has more than doubled its numbers in the past eight years.

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com