New hope for “extinct” European Caspian Tigers

28 – 08 - 2012

Recent tiger conventions have set a goal of doubling the worlds wild tiger population by 2022. All current tiger countries are involved in these conventions, but the 12 countries where the extinct Caspian subspecies used to range, are excluded. Recent genetic studies showed that the Caspian and Amur subspecies used to be part of one big continuous group and should be considered as one subspecies. This raises new hopes for reintroduction in the former Caspian Tigers range, including European countries like Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and European Russia.

The Caspian Tiger used to have one of the biggest ranges of all tiger subspecies. Its former range included countries like Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and western China. The last Caspian Tiger was actually shot in the most western country of its former range, in 1970 in Turkey. Just before the second world war it disappeared from the European countries like Azerbaijan. Many of these countries now hold large restoration landscapes.

Recent studies showed that the Caspian and Amur subspecies should be considered as one subspecies. It seems that these subspecies were actually a contiguous widespred population until the beginning of the 19th century. This implicates that the Caspian subspecies is not extinct after all. Every year Amur tgier are caught in the wild in Russia as a result of conflicts with humans. Also the worlds 500 strong Amur Tiger zoo population holds a strong sources of possible release animals.