A very rare subspecies of tiger could be returning to the wild lands of Kazakhstan. Wild tigers used to live there but they were wiped out by poaching and habitat loss. They were called Caspian or Turan tigers and were last documented in the wild in the 1970s. Now a project coordinated by the World Wildlife Fund and the Kazakhstan government could bring back a subspecies from Russia considered genetically identical, the Amur or Siberian tiger. In the wild there may be only several hundred Siberian tigers, and they live in the forests of Eastern Russia, although they may also be a very small number in China and North Korea. There also may be as many as 400 in a captive breeding program.
“We have agreed that WWF and the Ministry of Environment in Kazakhstan will draw up a comprehensive programme to reintroduce the tiger in the area around Lake Balkhash. With a strong plan and proper protections in place, tigers can again roam the forests and landscapes of Central Asia.” said Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia Director. (Source: blog.arkive.org)
The tigers would be relocated from Russia to a Kazakhstan region where there are vast stretches of land they could occupy. Russia’s potential involvement would be just the opposite of their role in the early 20th century when they instructed the Russian army to exterminate wild tigers. The army was very efficient in this horrendous task and cleared away the majority of them, leaving only a few that retreated far from humans, but the remaining population was too small to survive.
The proposed area for the tiger relocation project is near Lake Balkhash. This land is the original habitat of the Caspian tigers, and it has been estimated there are well over 500,000 acres suitable for the project.
Lake Balkhash covers over 6,000 square miles, and is one of the largest lakes in the world. About three million people live in the area, with mining and fishing as major industries. Siberian tigers nearly never attack humans, unlike Bengal tigers which do on occasion.
In the entire world it has been estimated the number of wild tigers remaining is only about 3,200.
Image Credit: Apaloosa