Image: YouTube

Scientists have uncovered how to resurrect the ancient Caspian tiger from the dead — using Siberian tiger DNA.

Panthera tirgris virgata, also known as the Caspian tiger, was one of the largest subspecies of tigers to ever exist, and previously inhabited meager forest habitats and waterways along the Caspian sea. The giant cat went extinct in the 20th century with the last recorded members of the species living around the Ili River in the 1950s. The animal was officially declared extinct in 2003.

The Siberian Amur tiger recently discovered in Russia underwent extensive genetic analysis that has revealed a stark resemblance between the genes of the Caspian and Amur tiger — so much as to render them the same species.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have joined forced with the World Wildlife Fund in order to introduce genetically similar Siberian tigers into the previous natural habitats of the extinct Caspian. The program will be initiated in an area of Kazakhstan that was selected for its capacity to support a proliferating large cat population.

Before reintroduction, the physical space must be environmentally revitalized in order to serve for the animals’ needs. Formerly endemic prey, predominantly deer and wild pigs, must be repopulated in the area to serve as natural food sources, and the waterways must be restored. 

While slightly physiology different, the reintroduction of the genetically indistinguishable Siberian tiger to this area would equate to a rebirth of the Caspian tiger population, or the closest scientists will be able to accomplish. A complete study of these findings is published in the journal Biological Conservation. 

The scope of the plan encompasses $10 million dollars spread over the next two decades.