Don’t mix tiger populations: study
Posted online: Monday, Aug 10, 2009
New Delhi : Even as tigers go extinct in national parks across India, a study has found that translocating a tiger from one part of the country to another could end up doing more harm than good. In fact, a tiger genome study shows the six genetically distinct tiger populations in India should not be mixed, especially now that the threat of extinction looms large.
The study, conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India and researchers from the University of Potsdam, Germany, has found that six unique tiger populations have evolved as a result of local adaptations. Following the tiger extinction from Sariska, the Western population—comprising only Ranthambhore now—is one of the smallest, along with the Himalayan gene-pool comprising of tigers from the Chitwan sanctuary (along the Indo-Nepal border) and Valmiki. The Northeastern population (mainly Kaziranga) is also dangerously small.
“The mitochondrial DNA, or the genetic make-up of these tiger populations, are all very diverse from each other. Therefore, the fitness levels of these tigers and their progeny will be dependant on the purity of their gene pools. Hypothetically speaking, if we were to take one gene pool and mix it with another, it may adversely affect the fitness of the progeny and his level of local adaptability. We have to guard the gene pools and keep them separate from each other at any cost,” says Dr S P Goyal, who co-authored the study.
For repopulating Sariska, only the Western population tigers from Ranthambhore should be used, says the study. “The fact that there are different gene pools of tigers in the country means that we have to protect all of them from extinction,” explains Goyal.