doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.272 Published online 14 August 2009
Tigers in the Indian subcontinent retain 60‐70% of global genetic variability, new research1 says, suggesting that the big cats in the subcontinent may be a worthy focus for conservation efforts.
The diversity is despite evidence of a relatively recent, potentially human-induced population crash of the tigers 200 years ago.
Tigers are a globally threatened species with only around 3,000 surviving in just 7% of their historical range. Conservation efforts may be bolstered by prioritising regions that harbour more tigers and trying to capture most of the remaining habitat diversity and largely unknown genetic variation.
The researchers collected non-invasive fecal samples from 73 individual tigers across varied habitats in the Indian subcontinent to obtain genetic data. Their comparisons of genetic diversity within and outside the Indian subcontinent revealed that Indian tigers retain more than half of the extant variation. The researchers attribute this high genetic diversity to a historically large population of about 58,200 tigers for peninsular India south of the Gangetic plains.
In the global context of tiger conservation, these results suggest that tigers in the Indian subcontinent are critically important for the future survival and recovery of the species. That Indian tigers have managed to retain their genetic diversity in the face of such high anthropogenic pressure provides new hope for the species' survival in the future.
The authors of this study are from: National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, Indian; Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, USA and Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore.