Sunday, April 15, 2018

Extinction of the Caspian Tiger

Caspian tiger (P. t. virgata), also known as the Hyrcanian tiger or Turan tiger was found in the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors south and east of the Black and Caspian Seas, through the Pontic-Caspian steppe into Central Asia, and onto the Takla-Makan desert of Xinjiang. The Caspian tiger had been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s and is now extinct. The extant Siberian tiger is the genetically closest living relative of this recognised subspecies. First thought to have been its own distinct subspecies, genetic research in 2009 proved that the animal was closely related to the Siberian tiger (P. t. altaica). Separated by only one letter of genetic code, it is believed that the two split off from each other only in the past few centuries. Some researchers suggest that it may be possible to reintroduce the closely related Siberian Tiger to the Caspian tiger's historical range in hopes of recreating this now-extinct big cat.

Its extinction can be attributed to hunting of both tigers and their prey, habitat loss and conversion, and increased vulnerability of small populations (Sunquist et al. 1999). The last Caspian Tiger was seen in the early 1970s, and there are none in captivity (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Many reasons for its extinction include hunting, habitat loss, human population increase, clearance of vegetation for agriculture and the river riparian tungai being depleted as river waters used for irrigation. In other areas reeds were cleared to assist eradicate malaria thus depriving the Caspian Tiger of its habitat and its prey. This led to the Caspian Tiger becoming an alien in its own territory and then being was targeted and hunted down as a menace to human settlements and a threat to livestock. In addition its pelt was prized for its beauty and fetched a large price.

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