'Life of Pi' moment for terrified Chinese fisherman as tiger tries to climb on boat

Heilongjiang man repeatedly prods wild Siberian tiger off his fishing boat in the middle of the Ussuri River

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 6:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 4:33pm


A fisherman had his own Life of Pi moment when a wild Siberian tiger tried to get on his boat on the Ussuri River in Heilongjiang province last week.

Zhang Mingyu, from the province’s Fuyuan county, said he spotted a creature swimming in the river as he was sending supplies to the Sanjiang National Nature Reserve with another fisherman last Wednesday morning, Xinhua reported.

“At first I thought it was just a red deer or a roe deer. But it turned out to be a Siberian tiger,” Zhang, 32, said. “When we approached, the tiger suddenly turned its head and let out a loud roar, with its front paws clutching at our boat. I was so scared that I rushed from the bow to the stern.”

To avoid harming the tiger, Zhang used a rod to gently prod the tiger back into the water. But the animal swam over to the other side of the boat and tried to climb on again.

After several rounds of trying to clamber on to the vessel with Zhang repeatedly pushing it off, the tiger eventually gave up and swam towards the riverbank instead.

The fisherman later recorded a 10-minute video on his mobile phone of the tiger swimming in the river and going ashore. It left clear footprints in the sand on the riverbank.

Watch: Wild Siberian tiger swims in the Ussuri River

Zhang’s experience with the tiger calls to mind scenes from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s 2012 movie Life of Pi, in which a young man encounters a Bengal tiger on a lifeboat after a shipwreck. The movie is adapted from Canadian author Yann Martel’s fiction novel of the same name.

Wu Zhifu, section chief of Sanjiang National Nature Reserve’s publicity and education department said Zhang’s video was sent to Northeast Forestry University’s International Feline Research Centre.

The animal was identified as a healthy wild Siberian tiger after the research centre analysed the video and examined the creature’s footprints.

The reserve – situated in the triangle area of the confluence reaches of the Heilongjiang River and the Ussuri River – is one of the world’s only three black-soil marshes. The other two are North America's Mississippi River basin and Ukraine's Great Plains.

The footprints and excretions of Siberian tigers have recently been found around the reserve.

“Since the reserve’s natural environment is very good and there is plenty of food for tigers here, such as hares and roe deers, the Sanjiang National Nature Reserve has become a ‘paradise’ for Siberian tigers,” Wu said.