Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) - Wiki
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[Photo] A captive Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), a.k.a. Persian Tiger (Berlin Zoo, 1899). Source: http://www.petermaas.nl/extinct/animals.htm
The Caspian Tiger (or Persian tiger) (Panthera tigris virgata) was found in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, and the Central Asiatic area of Russia. This sub species of tigers, the smallest in size became extinct in the late 1960s.
The Caspian tiger or Persian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) was the westernmost subspecies of tiger, found in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Caucasus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan until it apparently became extinct in the 1970s, though there have been several alleged sightings of the tiger.
Of all the tigers known to the world, the Caspian tiger was the third largest. The body of this subspecies was quite stocky and elongated with strong legs, big wide paws and unusually large claws. The ears were short and small, and gave the appearance of being without hair on the tips. Around the cheeks the Caspian tiger was generously furred and the rest of its fur was long and thick. The colouration resembled that of the Bengal tiger. The skin specimen in the British Museum has a yellow-gold colour over the back and flanks, while the sides of the body are lighter than the back and the striping also varies from light to dark brown. The chest and abdomen is white with yellow stripes, while the facial area is yellow with brown stripes on the forehead and obvious white patches around the eyes and cheeks. Outer portions of the legs are yellow and the inner areas white. The tail of this subspecies is yellow and has yellowish white stripes. In winter, the hair of the Caspian tiger was very long, and the tiger had a well-developed belly mane and a short nape mane. Male Caspian tigers were very large and weighed 169-240 kg. Females were not as large, weighing 85-135 kg.
Habits and mating
Caspian tigers remained solitary for the most of their lives; they rarely socialized with other tigers outside the mating season. The male tiger was larger than the female and lived from ten to fifteen years. Caspian tigers bred at any time of year, but they usually mated in winter or spring. The mating period of the tigers lasted twenty to thirty days. If a female did not find a mate at this time, she came into heat again later. After a gestation period of approximately 100 days, the tigress gave birth to about two to three cubs. These cubs were born blind and did not open their eyes until about ten days after birth. The cubs would drink their mother's milk for about the first eight weeks of their life. The raising of the cubs is done by the mother alone. The curious, playful cubs first left the den with their mother after about two weeks. The mother needed to hunt for three instead of for one; however, hunting was severely restricted by the amount of time she needed to spend looking after the cubs. The cubs themselves began to hunt after about eleven weeks but until then they were dependent on their mother. A Caspian tigress bore cubs only once every three to four years.
Caspian tiger in the Roman arenas
The Caspian tiger was the subspecies of tiger (along with the Bengal) used in the Roman arenas. To Romans this subspecies was the most accessible as it inhabited the eastern borders of the Roman Empire. They were imported from Caucasus, Mesopotamia and Persia. The first tiger that fought in Rome was a gift from an Indian ambassador to Roman emperor Augustus in the year 19 BC. In the Roman arenas the tiger fought against Roman Gladiators and other animals like the aurochs and the European and Barbary lion.
History and extinction
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Russian government worked heavily to eradicate the Caspian tiger during an extensive land reclamation program. There was no room for the tiger in their plans, and government officials instructed the Russian army to exterminate all tigers found around the area of the Caspian Sea, a project that was carried out very efficiently. Once the extermination of the Caspian tiger was almost complete, farmers cleared forests and planting crops such as rice and cotton. Due to intensive hunting and deforestation, the Caspian tiger retreated first from the lush lowlands to the forested ranges, then to the marshes around some of the larger rivers, and finally, deeper into the mountains, until it almost certainly became extinct.
The last stronghold of the Caspian tiger in the former Soviet Union was in the Tigrovaya Balka area. Though the tigers were reported as being found there until the mid-1950s, the reliability of these claims is unknown.
An exact date of extinction is unknown. Some reports state that the last Caspian tiger was shot in Golest??n National Park or some other place in Northern Iran in 1959. There are claims of a documented killing of this subspecies in the Uludere district in Turkey - a few dozen kilometers from the Iraqi border - during the 1970s (see below). Yet other reports state that the final Caspian tiger was captured and killed in Northeast Afghanistan in 1997. The most frequently quoted date for extinction is the late 1950s, but there is almost no evidence to back that claim. It appears this date came to be accepted after being quoted by H. Ziaie in "A Field Guide to the Mammals of Iran." More evidence reflects an even earlier date of extinction. The area of Iran that contained the last Caspian tigers was the eastern region of Mazandaran, Northern Iran. According to E. Firouz in “A Guide to the Fauna of Iran, 1999”, the last tiger was killed in 1947 near Agh-Ghomish Village, 10 km East of Kalaleh (Golest??n Province), on the way to Minoodasht/Bojnourd. No one really knows for certain.
Sightings and doubts about extinction
Possible Turkish sightings
The following excerpts are taken from "Can, O.E. 2004. Status, Conservation and Management of Large Carnivores in Turkey. Council of Europe. 29 pages. Strasbourg, France".
"Earlier in the 20th century, the presence of the Caspian tiger had been known by Turkish (Turkish Republic Official Gazette, 1937). Yet, when the Caspian tiger was declared extinct in the world, international zoologists did not accept the idea that the Caspian tiger distribution range extended as far as eastern Turkey (Dr. George Schaller, Ankara, Turkey, personal communication, 2003). In fact, the species was officially a pest species until July 11, 2004 in Turkey. In the 1970s, surveys conducted by Paul Joslin in Iran turned up no signs of the Caspian tiger and the conclusion was made that the Caspian tiger had been extirpated. International cat experts only became aware of the presence of the Caspian tiger in Turkey after a tiger was killed in Uludere, Þ??rnak 1970 (Uludere was a sub-province of Hakkari in 1970). Three years later, a botanist visiting the area saw and photographed the tiger pelt and published the story (Baytop, 1974)."
Turkish scientists, during a study on the field, reached some information on the presence of the Caspian tiger.
"Within the framework of Southeastern Anatolia Biodiversity Research Project of WWF-Turkey, a survey was conducted to reveal the large mammal presence and distribution in the region (Can & Lise, 2004). Within the framework of the first attempt to collect systematically the large mammal data in Southeastern Turkey. First, a questionnaire was designed and distributed to 450 military posts in the region. The questionnaire included questions about the presence of large mammal species and each questionnaire was accompanied with Turkey's Mammal Poster of Turkish Society for the Conservation of Nature (which became WWF-Turkey later). The questionnaires were filled out by military personnel in cooperation with the local people and 428 questionnaires were returned to WWF-Turkey. The questionnaires also included questions related with the historical tiger presence in the region. Later, the questionnaire results were used to identify the areas on which the field survey will focus.
The questionnaire revealed that some military personal had heard rumours about the presence of large cats in the region. During the interviews with local people, the mammal team collected rumours about big cat sightings and met local people that claimed to hear roaring from different sites. In addition, it was reported that there was a local tiger pelt trade in the region and three to five tigers were killed in each year and the pelts were sold to rich land lords in Iraq until the mid-1980s. This confirms Turan's findings (1984,) who obtained his information from local hunters in the region. Baytop (1974) similarly reported that 1-8 tigers were killed each year in the Þ??rnak region.
Considering that one to eight tigers were killed each year in Eastern Turkey until the mid 1980s, the tiger that was killed in Uludere was a young individual according to the stripe patterns. The Caspian tiger is likely to have existed in the region at least until the early 1990s. Nevertheless, due to lack of interest in addition to security and safety reasons, trained biologists had not attempted to survey in Eastern Turkey before."
While these anecdotal sightings do not prove that the Caspian tiger survived, researchers believe they should investigate this possibility seriously. It is likely an investigation will be made sometime in 2006.
There are still occasional claims of the Caspian tiger being sighted, with some occurring in Afghanistan, (pug marks [tiger paw prints] have occasionally been reported), and others coming from the more remote forested areas of Turkmenistan. Alas, experts have been unable to find any solid evidence to substantiate these claims and the last reliable sighting was probably at least 30 years ago. It has also been suggested that the 'tiger' sightings may actually be Persian Leopards. Any hope of Caspian tigers in Afghanistan could be further dashed as war continues to rage across areas of the country.
Without photographic evidence, expert assessment of pug marks, attacks on animals or people, or a sighting by an expert authority, there is presently no good reason to believe that the Caspian Tiger still lives. Nonetheless, complete resolution of the matter will probably not be achieved until some time in the late 2000s, given the need to investigate the Turkish reports.
|The text in this page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article shown in above URL. It is used under the GNU Free Documentation License. You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the GFDL.|