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26 September 2018

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The Hunt

Author: Álvaro Laiz
Illustrations/Images by Álvaro Laiz

Jan/Feb 2016
Page 28   (10 pages)

Summary: According to an Udege proverb, “If you see a tiger for one second, he has been watching you for an hour.” And what happens if one unwittingly unleashes a tiger’s bad side? You must, the Udege believe, hunt down and kill the tiger – not an easy thing.


The Udege people have lived in the boreal jungle, in what is now Russia’s Primorsky Krai, for hundreds of years. Given their close contact with nature, their beliefs are riddled with references to supernatural forces that must be respected. For example, the Udege people believe that if someone attacks a tiger without reason, Amba will hunt him down.

In 1997 a Russian poacher named Markov ran across the trail of a gigantic Amur Tiger. Despite the risk, Markov interpreted the tiger’s footprints as the promise of a better life. He shot the tiger, but did not kill it. Unexpectedly, Markov unleashed the Amba, the tiger’s dark side.

Over the next 72 hours, the wounded tiger tracked Markov down and killed him. Later investigations suggested that the tiger planned its movements with a rare mix of strategy and instinct and, most importantly, with a chilling clarity of purpose: Amba was seeking revenge.

Such animistic beliefs are emblematic of the impact of nature in Udege communities across the Russian Far East. Theirs is a hunting culture, and one of the last bastions of shamanism.

This photojournalism project, which sought to create a collective portrait of the people, fauna, ecosystem and ways of life surrounding the Udege, was influenced by two books that focus on the complex relationship between native peoples and the boreal forest and examine the conflict between modern and traditional life.

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