SIBERIA UNDERCOVER

I AM SITTING IN THE SPARSELY FURNISHED LIVING ROOM OF AN UDEGE house in southeastern Siberia while the owner tries to sell me a tiger skin and bones. My cover is that I am part of a group of American businessmen here for a week of bird watching. The other "bird watchers" consist of Steven Galster, an environmental investigator, Anthony Suau, a TIME photographer, and Sergei Shaitarov, a Russian environmentalist who works with Galster. My ludicrously rudimentary disguise consists of a borrowed pair of binoculars. If the tiger trader asks me to name one species of local bird, we are sunk.

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