Rewilding the Caspian Tiger
Siberian tiger cub (is it purebred?) - photo by flickkerphotos (Flickr)
Apparently the last tiger in Kazakhastan was killed by a poacher 40 years ago. Kazakhstan is south of Russia. It is a large country, the world's ninth largest, and it has a small population of about 19 million. Plenty of space for the tiger, then?
Blank map from Wikimedia Commons.
The tigers of Kazakhstan would appear to be the Caspian tiger and are also called the "Turan tiger". People aren't sure when the Caspian tiger became extinct but it could have been about 40 years ago.
The idea is to reintroduce the tiger into its old habit in Kazakhastan. This is possible because the Caspian tiger, although extinct is the same as the Siberian tiger, also called the Amur tiger.
Siberian tigers will be trapped and shipped to Kazakhstan to populate a large reserve that is intended to be 400,000 hectares, near the Ili river south of Balkhash (Balqash) lake (see map above).
One obstacle to this plan is the infertility of the Siberian tiger. Although its population is about 400, in terms of reproductive ability it is nearer, 14 individuals. The genetic pool of the Siberian tiger in Siberia is too small to sustain its population of 400.
On that basis how will, say, half a dozen taken from Siberian and imported into Kazakhstan get on? It is impossible to see how they can survive as an isolated "island" population because they won't be able to breed. I can't see it working unless I am missing something.
Inbreeding makes the wildcats infertile (see also inbreeding of wildcats). The Florida panther is a case in point and cheetahs have a small gene pool resulting is semen that is much worse than that of the domestic cat.