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Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Recent genetic analysis has shown that the extinct Caspian Tiger (P. t. virgata) and the living Amur Tigers (P. t. altaica) of the Russian Far East are actually taxonomically synonymous and that Caspian and Amur groups historically formed a single population, only becoming separated within the last 200 years by human agency. A major conservation implication of this finding is that tigers of Amur stock might be reintroduced, not only back into the Koreas and China as is now proposed, but also through vast areas of Central Asia where the Caspian tiger once lived. However, under the current tiger conservation framework the 12 “Caspian Tiger States” are not fully involved in conservation planning. Equal recognition as “Tiger Range States” should be given to the countries where the Caspian tiger once lived and their involvement in tiger conservation planning encouraged. Today, preliminary ecological surveys show that some sparsely populated areas of Central Asia preserve natural habitat suitable for tigers. In depth assessments should be completed in these and other areas of the Caspian range to evaluate the possibility of tiger reintroductions. Because tigers are a charismatic umbrella species, both ecologically and politically, reintroduction to these landscapes would provide an effective conservation framework for the protection of many species in addition to tigers. And for today’s Amur Tigers this added range will provide a buffer against further loss of genetic diversity, one which will maintain that diversity in the face of selective pressures that can only be experienced in the wild.



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