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China to Build Gene Bank for Siberian Tigers
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Chinese zoologists plan to establish a gene bank for the endangered Siberian tigers within three years to ensure heredity diversity for the large cats.


"By 2009, we will have established a DNA bank from samples of more than 750 tigers at the park," said Liu Dan, chief engineer of the Harbin-based Heilongjiang Siberian Tiger Park in northeast China, the world's largest Siberian tiger breeding base.


He said nearly half of the tigers with high genetic quality will be selected for further reproduction, while the others will be sent to zoos.


"The move aims to expand heredity diversity by reducing inbreeding among the tigers," he said.


Experts believe inbreeding of the tigers is partly blamed for apparent genetic degeneration, which includes slow physical development, blurred stripes, deformities and underdeveloped organs.


Siberian tigers, among the world's 10 most endangered species, mostly live in northeast China and the Far East area of Russia. Of the 400 estimated to live in the wild, only 10 to 17 live in northeast China.


The center is home to more than 750 Siberian tigers, up from just eight when it was founded in 1986.


More than 90 of the 100 or so tigers born at the park every year survive and the park's tiger population is expected to exceed 1,000 by 2009, according to the park.


(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2006)

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