Rajasthan has more inbred tigers than any other state in India: Research
The National Centre for Biological Sciences team has been using hair, blood, tissue and muscle samples from the big cats to create their genetic database and pedigree in Rajasthan.Updated: Jul 07, 2020 15:18 IST
Rajasthan has more inbred tigers than any other state in the country, ongoing research by the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) has found.
Anubhab Khan, one of the researchers who is a part of the NCBS team, said the reason behind the inbreeding—producing offspring from mating or breeding of individuals or organisms that are closely related genetically—in Rajasthan because of their isolation.
“Tigers from here have dispersed up to 150-200 km towards Madhya Pradesh, but there aren’t any reports of any coming to Rajasthan from other states,” Khan said.
“We have sequenced tiger genome across Rajasthan. Here, mostly the tigers have dispersed or shifted from the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR) to Sarika Tiger Reserve (STR) in Alwar and Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve (MHTR) in Kota. This shows that all the Rajasthan tigers are related,” he added.
The NCBS team has been using hair, blood, tissue and muscle samples from the big cats to create their genetic database and pedigree in Rajasthan.
“In the six-year-long study, we have collected blood samples (besides tissue and muscle samples) from 18 dead or tranquilised tigers, and hair sheds of 34 tigers,” he added.
Khan said the study of tiger genome through its hair is a faster and reliable method.
“Earlier, we had to wait for a tiger to get tranquilised, but now we just need to follow the tiger and wait for him to sit,” he said.
The researchers, so far have studied 60 tigers from eight states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Khan said the study was useful in numerous ways.
For example, he said, that if a tiger is to be shifted from Ranthambore to Mukundra, the sequencing of its genome will help identify the RTR big cat—not related to any other such animal in MHTR—that can be sent there for better reproduction.
“Mitochondrial (related to cell) lineage can also be studied. During the study, we found that T-47 (a tiger) whose parents were not known is from the family of Machli, the longest surviving tigress,” he said.
Emphasising on the need for inbreeding, RTR field director Manoj Parashar said it has been seen everywhere as the tiger population is isolated.
It’s the tigers from RTR, which have gone to Sariska and Mukundra. There are zero possibilities that any tiger from outside comes in contact.
“Inbreeding is right but it has not affected the population figure of tiger,” he said.
Parashar said the research is ongoing and the report is yet to be submitted.
A senior forest official, who did not want to be named, said in order to avoid inbreeding and create a fresh gene pool of tigers, the forest department in Rajasthan is mulling bringing two to three big cats from Madhya Pradesh under the tiger reintroduction programme to the Sariska Tiger Reserve.
Sariska has 20 big cats—11 females, five males and four cubs.
The officer also pointed to the need for a fresh gene pool of tigers.
“In the case of the death of tiger ST-16, cancer was suspected. The disease is indicative of inbreeding, which also could be a cause of infertility,” the officer said.