Scientists want to bring cousin of extinct Caspian tiger to Central Asia

Tiger
Image caption Could the Amur tiger help bring back the Caspian subspecies?

Tigers could once again inhabit Central Asia, nearly 60 years after the Caspian tiger was declared extinct.

They were once one of the world's largest tigers.

Until the 1960s, the tigers roamed Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea to north-west China, before loss of habitat robbed them of their prey.

Ever since Caspian tigers disappeared, biologists and conservationists have tried to come up with a strategy to bring tigers back to Central Asia.

It's not clear exactly when the Caspian tiger died out.

Some reports suggest it was last seen in the 1950s, while others date its extinction to the 1970s.

Caspian Tiger

Another tiger subspecies known as the Amur tiger is genetically very similar to the Caspian tiger and could potentially survive in Central Asia.

Between 2010 and 2012, scientists conducted studies that showed that Caspian and Amur tigers were almost identical in their genetic structure.

Scientists now want to reintroduce tigers in Central Asia using Amur tigers from the Russian Far East.

Researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and State University of New York (SUNY) say they have found two spots in Kazakhstan to reintroduce the extinct enormous cat.

The habitat these Tigers need
Image caption The habitat these Tigers need

Experts have been discussing the plans for nearly 10 years, explained study co-author Mikhail Paltsyn, of SUNY, in a statement.

Scientists say the project has some major hurdles before it could be undertaken.

The potential tiger habitat needs to be protected.

The species would also need hooved-animals to prey upon and numbers of these in the area are still low.

This is predicted to take at least 15 years.

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