Indian tigers key to global tiger recovery?

Indian tigers key to global tiger recovery?

Seema Singh – Friday, August 14, 2009 11:28 AM

Indians have always taken pride in their tigers. So every time the dwindling tiger count comes to the fore, there’s a national uproar. But now there’s one more compelling reason to save Indian tigers.

New research in today’s issue of the open source journal PLoS Genetics shows that tigers in the Indian subcontinent retain 60-70% of global genetic variability, despite evidence of a relatively recent and potentially human-induced population crash 200 years ago. The findings suggest the subcontinent tigers may be a worthy focus of conservation.

The research has been done by a team from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York and Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore.

Tigers are a globally threatened species with only around 3,000 surviving in just 7% of their historical range.

The genetic tool , which Mint reported earlier, has been pioneered by Uma Ramakrishnan and her team who collected non?invasive fecal samples from 73 individual tigers across varied habitats in the Indian subcontinent to obtain genetic data. The comparison of genetic diversity within and outside the Indian subcontinent revealed that Indian tigers retain more than half of the extant variation. The authors attribute this high genetic diversity to a historically large population size of about 58,200 tigers for peninsular India south of the Gangetic plains.

In the global context of tiger conservation, these results suggest that tigers in the Indian subcontinent are critically important for the future survival and recovery of the species.

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