Thursday, April 15, 2010
The large, distinctive and powerful cats are popular zoo exhibits. The Siberian tiger is bred under the auspices of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), in a project based on 83 tigers captured in the wild. According to most experts, this population is large enough to stay stable and genetically healthy. Today, approximately 160 Siberian tigers participate in the SSP, which makes it the most extensively bred tiger subspecies within the program. There are currently no more than around 255 tigers in the tiger SSP from three different subspecies. Developed in 1982, the Species Survival Plan for the Siberian tiger is the longest running program for a tiger subspecies. It has been very fortunate and productive, and the breeding program for the Siberian tiger has actually been used as a good example when new programs have been designed to save other animal species from extinction.
The Siberian tiger is not very difficult to breed in captivity, but the possibility of survival for animals bred in captivity released into the wild is small. Conservation efforts that secure the wild population are therefore still imperative. If a captive bred Siberian tiger were to be released into the wild, it would lack the necessary hunting skills and starve to death. Captive bred tigers can also approach humans and villages, since they have learned to associate humans with feeding and lack the natural shyness of the wild tigers. In a worst-case scenario, the starving tigers could even become man-eaters. Since tigers must be taught how to hunt by their mothers when they are still cubs, a program that aimed to release captive bred Siberian tigers into the wild would create great difficulties.