DAEJEON -- South Korea's forest authorities said Wednesday they plan to release three additional Siberian tigers into a "tiger forest" inside an arboretum in southeastern South Korea starting from this week as part of efforts to preserve the species in the wild.
The Korea Forest Service, in the initial stage, will relocate a 12-year-old female named Hancheong and a six-year-old male named Uri from Seoul Grand Park to the 4.8 hectare forest at the National Baekdu-daegan Arboretum on a mountain range near Bonghwa, a town in South Korea's southeast province of North Gyeongsang, on Thursday.
This image, taken from the website of the National Baekdu-daegan Arboretum on June 28, 2017, shows a "tiger forest" at the arboretum on a mountain range near Bonghwa, a town in South Korea`s southeast province of North Gyeongsang. (Yonhap)
The relocation will come after the arboretum and the park sign a pact on cooperation in exchanges of endangered animals and plants.
Another Siberian tiger will be transported to the forest in due course if Hancheong and Uri adapt to the new surroundings.
In February, the service released Geumgang, an 11-year-old Siberian tiger, and another tiger named Duman, 15, into the forest. Both tigers are male, were donated by China, and were raised at the amusement park O-World in the city of Daejeon, central South Korea.
However, Geumgang died of urine poisoning caused by chronic renal failure eight days after his release.
Siberian tigers, also called Mount Paekdu tigers, are known to have last been captured in the wild on the Korean Peninsula in 1921.
The forest service is scheduled to finish two to three months of training on the tigers for their reintroduction to the wild after the relocation and to open the arboretum to the public after September.
A 12-year-old female Siberian tiger named Hancheong, one of three that will be released into a "tiger forest" inside an arboretum in southeastern South Korea the next day on June 28, 2017. (Korea Forest Service)
Choi Byung-am, head of the forest protection affairs bureau at the service, expected that "by successfully relocating the Siberian tigers the service will show the public Siberian tigers romping around in the wild as well as preserve the animal that is at risk of extinction."
"We will also strengthen cooperation with Seoul Grand Park in the exchange and protection of endangered animal and plant genetic resources," Choi said.
The tiger forest, the largest one displaying tigers in South Korea, is made similar to the surroundings of natural habitats where wild tigers live and has safety fences around it that keep the tigers from escaping to ensure the safety of visitors who are allowed to see them roaming in the wild.
In South Korea, 50 Siberian tigers are raised in zoos nationwide. The arboretum has an area of 5,179 hectares, the largest in Asia. (Yonhap)