Govt moots captive breeding for tigers

Govt moots captive breeding for tigers

New Delhi, July 13: In addition to the tiger relocation programme in Sariska Reserve in Rajasthan, the government has chalked out an innovative plan for captive breeding of “pure stocks” to increase the population of the majestic striped cat.

The plan is the fallout of a recent census which revealed that the tiger population in the wild has reached an alarming low of 1,500 animals only.

Towards realising the plan, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has recently identified six zoos in New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Chhatbir, Chennai and Bhopal as coordinating centres to raise at least 100 physically, genetically and behaviourally healthy endangered species.

“No doubt the tiger relocation in Sariska Reserve has been a first major step towards tiger conservation measures besides declaring tiger reserves for the animal’s protection in the country. But as exigency measures, it has been decided to augment the depleting population of the stripped animal in zoos.

Such managed zoo populations will serve as a ‘genetic reservoir’ in case of future need to supplement wild tiger populations or reintroduce tigers in areas from where they have vanished,” B R Sharma, member secretary of CZA said.

Besides tigers, at least 50 other critically endangered wild species with less than few hundreds or less than 2500 individuals left in the wild will also be raised in the protective environment.

“And given that the number of stripped animal has declined to as low as 1,500 as estimated by Wildlife Institute of India and the predators’ crucial position in the ecosystem, its breeding is high on our agenda. The reservoir will help sustain their population in forests as well in zoos,” Sharma said.

There are around 255 captive tigers in various zoos across the country monitored by the CZA, an autonomous body of the Environment Ministry that will fund the project.

Only “pure stock” tigers whose single sub-species ancestry can be traced back through written records will be included in conservation breeding programmes, he said.

“At least 25 tigers having known lineage generation from each identified zoo will be bred with the opposite sex and the cubs will be reared under the guidance of experts for future exigencies.

“Though in the past, release of endangered animals like red panda in Darjeeling in the wild have been successfully conducted, no similar experiments have been tried so far with the tiger,” Sharma said.

For genetic fingerprinting of the animals, assistance from laboratory for conservation of endangered species (Lacones) in Hyderabad will be taken.

World wildlife bodies such as world association of zoos and aquariums, conservation breeding specialist group (CBSG)/ SSC/IUCN have also been requested to be engaged in the activity, Sharma said.

Some of the other endangered species to be bred are snow leopard, clouded leopard, asiatic cheetah, golden cat and pangolin.

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