LORI DUNN SCRATCHBOARD ART
promoting conservation through artistic efforts
14 x 18
Fewer than 2000 tigers are left in the world, 60% of those are Bengal or Indian tigers. Many factors have contributed to the demise of this species, most notably habitat loss due to urbanization, resulting in fragmentation and isolated populations. As a result of this isolation a new silent threat faces these animals - loss of genetic diversity.
A recent study found that up to 93% of DNA variants are missing from Indian tigers today. Animals that cannot access unrelated mates due to fragmentation of habitat show a loss of alleles in their genetic makeup. These alleles are not only responsible for the visual characteristics of the animal such as coat pattern, but also immunity and other health related factors. Despite efforts to preserve habitat, inbreeding could result in the demise of this species.
Zoo tigers can have a role to play in preserving genetic diversity. As long as they are purebred and their ancestry can be traced via written records, certain individuals may serve as "genetic reservoirs" for future populations. Young tigers, such as the one pictured here, and their DNA, may have a valuable role to play in the conservation of this species, provided habitat loss can be further prevented and additional acreage preserved.