Please understand that while The Siberian is a love story, every romance has to have a setting, and I happened to choose the backdrop of wildlife conservation. As I researched tigers around the world, I fell in love with the Siberians, and it was then I discovered they were endangered. I don’t usually write stories with a “message”. I’m not sure what set me along this path for this particular story except for my love of wild animals, particularly pandas and the big cats.
My early days as a zoo enthusiast no doubt had something to do with my choice.
When I was ten, my mother would pack a sack lunch for me on Saturdays and I would bicycle alone to the zoo. There was no entry fee. I’d park my bike outside the gates—locking anything, even your front door, wasn’t necessary in those days—and retrieve my lunch to eat in a grotto with a small waterfall and lush tropical plantings. I would wander the grounds until my feet were too sore to take another step and then head for my bicycle and home.
The summer I was twelve, a girlfriend and I took a class there to learn about apes and gorillas. We learned Ape is a subgroup of the primates, and Gorilla is a variety among the Greater Apes. Apes have no tails. Monkeys, a separate primate subgroup, do.
Until now, I’ve never had a need to use that information, but the next time I visit a wildlife park, I’ll think of it in a new light. Although I was unaware of it when young, today I realize the two major thrusts of any zoo are education and conservation.
My two previous animal shifter stories are not conservation oriented, even though Inhabiting The Night features a white tiger, and a snow leopard prowls the pages of Twilight. As research for this current story deepened my understanding of Panthera Tigris, I fell in love with the Siberian Amur above all others.
Setting a story in the vast part of Russia in Asia known as Siberia was a frustrating challenge. I did find a couple of articles in The Siberian Times online for tips on life there. Although education, even through the college years, is free in Russia, locating towns in Siberia near its taiga forest of spruce, pines and larches was impossible. Therefore, the town of Amurskova and its university exist only in my imagination.
The websites I used as a guide for what I call the “Conservation of Wildlife Organization” in my novella have not been updated for almost ten years, so I’m not sure the specific program operated in 1996 by the United States and Russia, after which I modeled mine, still exists. However, conservation methods are similar anywhere in the world.
Sadly, the very real and active World Wildlife Fund organization estimates we have lost 93% of the wild tigers in the world due to poaching and loss of habitat.
Siberians are believed to have declined from the high of 400 in my story.
I hope you enjoy The Siberian, and that you fall in love with these tigers just as I did.
The Siberian by Carolina Valdez is now available at Amber Allure.
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