Friday, April 22, 2011

Russia giving Korea three rare Siberian tigers

It’s a tiger of a deal. Russia plans to give three Siberian tigers to Korea to reaffirm amicable bilateral ties between Korea and Russia.

“The Korean and Russian governments have recently decided to bring in tigers to Korea within the first half of the year,” said a Korean diplomatic source. “This is meaningful as it symbolizes the friendly relations between the two countries.”

The three Siberian tigers, otherwise known as Amur tigers, were each said to be a little over a year old.

Zoologists have said that Siberian tigers have not been found in Korea since 1922 when the last Siberian tiger was killed in North Gyeongsang. The tigers, which are an endangered species under protection in the eastern region of Siberia, are considered mystical creatures in Korean culture.

The source said that diplomatic officials hatched a plan to have the tigers accompany Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on a visit to Korea, but was scrapped because Putin does not have plans to visit Korea anytime soon.

Korea’s Ministry of Environment is in negotiations on the transport plans for the tigers, and a group from the Korean government visited Russia last December, said the source.

Relations between South Korea and Russia soured last year when Russia did not take a more active role in blaming North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan in March.

However, Seoul is now extending efforts to have warmer ties with Russia as North Korea has sided with China since inter-Korean relations turned cold.

According to government sources, the Russian government also hopes to have better ties with South Korea as its influence over the Korean Peninsula has weakened.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Poverty threatens the Siberian tiger genetics

Crosses between individuals of a small group have resulted in the genetic impoverishment of the whole. In the animal world, inbreeding may occur too tightly in the case of endangered species, such as the Siberian tiger ( Panthera tigris altaica ), which reduces genetic diversity and its ability to respond to critical situations such as disease.

“Most animal populations fluctuate over time. If reductions are very substantial demographic group is reduced dramatically, there may be two things: that the group is terminated or experiencing the phenomenon known as bottleneck (pronounced reduction of genetic diversity of a population), “says Samer Alas, a researcher at DoƱana Biological Station (CSIC).

The detection of genetic impoverishment in species is endangered, the researchers said, of “vital importance” to the strategies of conservation of the species. “In future genetic work on animal conservation will be necessary to add the effect of genetic bottlenecks that have gone by the species, because otherwise their future could be compromised,” says Alas.

An endangered species

Research has modeled itself on the Siberian tiger, endangered species of which only about 520 copies are distributed among the forests of eastern Russia and northeast China.

A mid-twentieth century, the population of the Siberian tiger ( Panthera tigris altaica ) was much reduced by poaching and habitat destruction. The remaining specimens all went through a bottleneck that affected the genetic diversity of the species.

“Although currently there are about 500 Siberian tigers, the population behaves as if they were only 14 animals due to reduced genetic diversity. This assessment of effective population size is alarming because it demonstrates its fragility and its high sensitivity to any disease, “says Alas.

According to the researcher, the effective population size is a “factor to be taken into account in any demographic or genetic study undertaken on the Siberian tiger.”

In reaching its conclusions, the research team collected samples of blood and tissue of 15 Siberian tigers scattered along the Russian Far East, and worked in the laboratory with DNA extracted from these samples.