Scientists Have Plan To Bring Back Extinct Caspian Tiger

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Before going extinct nearly 60 years ago, the Caspian Tiger was one of the biggest species of cats the world has ever known – 10 feet in length and up to 500 pounds. Scientists are now working on a plan that could bring back the Caspian Tiger to its habitat of Central Asia, sort of.

The idea involves taking the Amur Tiger, a species almost identical genetically to the Caspian Tiger, and implanting it into the area of Central Asia that the Caspian Tiger once called home. In essence, replacing an extinct species with a nearly identical species that could learn to adapt to its new habitat in Central Asia.

Researchers from the World Wildlife Fund and the State University of New York have published a study in which they identify two specific parts of Kazakhstan that could serve as a new habitat for anywhere between 64 and 98 Amur tigers.

“The idea of tiger reintroduction in Central Asia using the Amur tiger from the Russian Far East as an ‘analog’ species has been discussed for nearly 10 years,” explains¬†the study’s co-author Mikhail Paltsyn. “It met with considerable support from the government of Kazakhstan in 2010 during the Global Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Unfortunately, this is not something that’s going to happen overnight. Scientists would have to preserve the two areas they have picked out for the tigers and then help restore the population of animals like deer and wild boar that would serve as prey for the tigers. “That, alone, could take 15 years,” states Paltsyn.

The two locations – the southern coast of Lake Balkhash and the delta of the Ili River – are important bodies of water for both Kazakhstan and China, and so logistics on humans co-existing with the tigers would have to be worked out as well.

However, there is confidence within the scientific community that such obstacles can be overcome. “WWF and the government of Kazakhstan seem to be ready to deal with all these difficult issues to bring tigers back to Central Asia,” says Paltsyn.

If the WWF can indeed introduce the Amir Tiger to Central Asia and have it successfully adapt to a new home, it would a great accomplishment for scientists and wildlife enthusiasts worldwide. Most importantly, it would bring tigers back to Central Asia decades after the extinction of the great Caspian Tiger.