Indian tigers critical for survival of species

Indian tigers critical for survival of species

Jaideep Hardikar / DNA Friday, January 8, 2010 1:58 IST

Mumbai: India holds key to the future of the tiger, an animal that is fast becoming extinct. According to a new research, even though the number of tigers in the country is dwindling, tigers in the Indian subcontinent still retain 60-70% of global genetic variability.

The researchers’ comparisons of genetic diversity within and outside the Indian subcontinent revealed that Indian tigers retained more than half of the extant variation — which makes Indian tigers critically important for the future survival and recovery of the species.

With only 3,000 wild surviving tigers restricted to just 7% of their historical range, say researchers, tigers are now a globally threatened species. Its population has shrunk to 1.7% of the historic numbers of 58,200 in peninsular India. On last count, the country had 1,411 tigers left in the wild.

Yet their genetic diversity, results of the research showed, is “despite evidence of a relatively recent, potentially human-induced population crash of the tigers 200 years ago.”

Indian tiger having managed to retain its genetic diversity in the face of such high anthropogenic pressure provides new hope for the species’ survival in the future, the research, which is published in the August 2009 issue of PLoS Genetics, says. The PLoS Genetics is a peer-reviewed open access journal of the Public Library of Science (10.1371/journal.pgen.1000585).

The research was conducted by Samrat Mondol and Uma Ramkrishnan of the National Center for Biological Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Bangalore and tiger scientist K Ullas Karanth of the Center for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore. They collected non-invasive fecal samples from 73 individual tigers across varied habitats in the Indian subcontinent.

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