A Chinese breeding center for Siberian tigers has conducted DNA samplings to be tested on 700 of the 800-plus tigers raised in the park amid efforts to help prevent "intermarriage" and reduce genetic degeneration of the species, a center official said on Thursday.
"We completed DNA samplings on another 150 Siberian tigers this year. So far, we have done so on all of the center's Siberian tigers aged above one, except for the 100 cubs born this year," said Liu Dan, chief engineer of the China Hengdaohezi Feline Breeding Center in the suburbs of Harbin, capital of northeastern Heilongjiang Province.
Since the DNA samplings and tests project started in 2001, the center has completed DNA tests on 200 Siberian tigers. It will carry out tests on all the remaining DNA samples, Liu said.
"The ultimate goal of conducting DNA tests on Siberian tigers is to set up a 'family tree' for them, so as to guarantee the pure blood of the species and prevent genetic degeneration due to 'intermarriage'," he said.
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 Siberian tiger is listed as "endangered" on the Red List of Threatened Species of the World Conservation Union and is also listed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I which prohibits the trade of live tigers or tiger parts.
To protect the rare tigers from extinction, China established the Harbin center in 1986, which is currently the largest breeding base for Siberian tigers in the world.
The center now has more than 800 Siberian tigers in captivity, including over 100 born this year, compared with only eight when it was set up.
Scientists at the center plan to train and release 620 Siberian tigers into the wild in the future, according to Liu.
(Xinhua News Agency November 29, 2007)