There are an estimated 350-500 Siberian, or Amur tigers, remaining in the wild. In captivity there are another 400 or so. In the late 1940s, that number was down to twenty, and the species was very close to extinction.
Various conservation projects, including captive breeding programs were successful in staving off extinction and growing the populations, however research last year uncovered an alarming fact. The Amur wild tiger population shows very little genetic diversity, due to their small numbers and isolation, which means in the future they could be subject to diseases caused by inbreeding. The effective population, or number of individuals with genetic diversity, was only 27 to 35 tigers for the main population living in Russia. A second population of twenty living in China was shown to have an effective population of 2.8 to 11.
The genetic diversity research is very important on its own, but a new development had threatened to put more pressure on wild Siberian Tigers. The Russian government announced plans to auction logging rights to begin cutting down trees in Siberian tiger habitat. Logging was also scheduled for Sredneussuriysky Nature Reserve, which was reported to be the last natural wild corridor of habitat for the tigers which links their populations in Russia and China. The World Wildlife Fund protested via a press conference, and the media ran news stories about the plan for logging in the endangered cat’s shrinking habitat. So far their pressure has kept the logging at bay. One never knows exactly in such cases, if the project has been halted temporarily or permanently as not much information has come out since the cancellation.
The halting of the logging is a victory for environmentalists and tiger supporters. Some of them will be traveling to Russia soon to attend the Tiger Preservation Summit in St. Petersburg. Officials from countries where the tigers live are planning to attend the conference in order to share information and strategize about how to continue protecting them. There has been some speculation fewer representatives of the countries will attend due to being offended by the near logging of the imperiled animals habitat.
Just this past August, China and Russia came to an agreement which created a protected area linking the two isolated tiger populations. “This agreement is a great boost for Amur tiger habitats in Russia and China. Since both countries play a crucial role in terms of global tiger recovery, a future transboundary network would represent a big step in WWF’s global tiger conservation effort,” said Dr. Sergey Aramilev, Biodiversity Coordinator for Amur Branch of WWF-Russia. (Source: WWF.org)
Image Credit: Appaloosa