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Caspian Tiger

Caspian Tiger

Overview
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Turan tiger and Hyrcanian tiger, is an extinct tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

 subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 that has been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s, and used to inhabit the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors west and south of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

, from Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and west through Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 into the Takla Makan desert of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. There are no individuals in captivity.

The Caspian tiger was formerly found in Chinese and Russian Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.

The Caspian tiger together with the Siberian and Bengal tiger
Bengal Tiger
The Bengal tiger is a tiger subspecies native to the Indian subcontinent that in 2010 has been classified as endangered by IUCN...

 subspecies represented the largest living felid and ranked among the biggest felids
Big cat
The term big cat – which is not a biological classification – is used informally to distinguish the larger felid species from smaller ones. One definition of "big cat" includes the four members of the genus Panthera: the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard. Members of this genus are the only cats able...

 that ever existed.



The body of Caspian tigers was generally less massive than of Siberian tigers, and their average size slightly less.
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Encyclopedia
The Caspian tiger, also known as the Turan tiger and Hyrcanian tiger, is an extinct tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

 subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 that has been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s, and used to inhabit the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors west and south of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

, from Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and west through Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 into the Takla Makan desert of Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. There are no individuals in captivity.

The Caspian tiger was formerly found in Chinese and Russian Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

.

The Caspian tiger together with the Siberian and Bengal tiger
Bengal Tiger
The Bengal tiger is a tiger subspecies native to the Indian subcontinent that in 2010 has been classified as endangered by IUCN...

 subspecies represented the largest living felid and ranked among the biggest felids
Big cat
The term big cat – which is not a biological classification – is used informally to distinguish the larger felid species from smaller ones. One definition of "big cat" includes the four members of the genus Panthera: the tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard. Members of this genus are the only cats able...

 that ever existed.

Characteristics



Size


The body of Caspian tigers was generally less massive than of Siberian tigers, and their average size slightly less. In Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

, male tigers exceeded 200 cm (78.7 in) in length, though an estimated body length of 270 cm (106.3 in) was recorded. Females were smaller in size, normally ranging between 160 to 180 cm (63 to 70.9 in). The maximum known weight was 240 kg (529.1 lb). Maximum skull length in males was 297 to 365.8 mm (11.7 to 14.4 in), while that of females was 195.7 to 255.5 mm (7.7 to 10.1 in). Although tigers from Turkestan never reached the size of Siberian tigers, there are records of very large individuals. In January 1954, a tiger killed near the Sumbar River
Sumbar River
The Sumbar is a fast flowing river in southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran. It a tributary of the Atrek. The name Sari-su means yellow water in Turkic languages, but is applied to a number of other rivers as well.-Geography:The Sumbar is 245 km long and drains a basin of 8300 km²...

 in Kopet-Dag had a skull length of 385 mm (15.2 in), which is considerably more than the known maximum for this population and slightly exceeds that of most Siberian tigers.

Pelage



The main background colour of its pelage varied, though generally, it was brighter and more uniform than that of Far Eastern tigers. The stripes were narrower, fuller and more closely set than those of the Siberian tiger. The colour of its stripes were a mixture of brown or cinnamon shades. Pure black patterns were invariably found only on the head, neck, the middle of the back and at the tip of the tail. Angular patterns at the base of the tail were less developed than those of the Far Eastern populations. The contrast between the summer and winter coats was sharp, though not to the same extent as in Far Eastern populations. The winter coat was paler, with less distinct patterns. The summer coat had a similar density and hair length to that of the Bengal tiger
Bengal Tiger
The Bengal tiger is a tiger subspecies native to the Indian subcontinent that in 2010 has been classified as endangered by IUCN...

, though its stripes were usually narrower, longer and closer set.

Phylogenetic relationship to Siberian tiger


At the turn of the century, researchers from the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem ; ; abbreviated HUJI) is Israel's second-oldest university, after the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. The Hebrew University has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot. The world's largest Jewish studies library is located on its Edmond J...

 collected tissue samples from 23 Caspian tiger specimens kept in museums across Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

. They sequenced at least one segment of five mitochondrial
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 genes, and observed a low amount of variability of the mitochondrial DNA in P. t. virgata as compared to other tiger subspecies. They re-assessed the phylogenetic relationships of tiger subspecies and observed a remarkable similarity between Caspian and Amur tiger
Amur Tiger
The Siberian tiger , also known as the Amur tiger, is a tiger subspecies inhabiting mainly the Sikhote Alin mountain region with a small subpopulation in southwest Primorye province in the Russian Far East. In 2005, there were 331–393 adult-subadult Amur tigers in this region, with a breeding adult...

 indicating that the Amur tiger population is the genetically closest living relative of the extinct Caspian tiger, and strongly implying a very recent common ancestry for the two groups. Phylogeographic analysis suggested that less than 10,000 years ago the ancestor of Caspian and Amur tigers colonized Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 via the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

 from eastern China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, then traversed Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 eastward to establish the Amur tiger in the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

. The actions of industrial-age
Industrial Age
Industrial Age may refer to:*Industrialisation*The Industrial Revolution...

 humans may have been the critical factor in the reciprocal isolation of Caspian and Amur tigers from what was likely a single contiguous population.

Distribution and habitat


Historical records show that the distribution of Caspian tigers in the region of the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 was not continuous but patchy, and associated with watercourses, river basins, and lake edges. In the 19th century, they occurred
  • in the extreme southeast of the Caucasus
    Caucasus
    The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

     : in hilly and lowland forests of the Talysh Mountains
    Talysh Mountains
    Talysh Mountains is a mountain chain in northwestern Iran, and southeastern Republic of Azerbaijan in the northwest section of the Elburz Mountains, extending southeastward from the Lankaran Lowland in southeast Azerbaijan to the lower part of the Sefid Rud in northwest Iran...

    , in the Lenkoran Lowlands, in the lowland forests of Prishib, from where they moved into the eastern plains of the Trans-Caucasus; and in the Zangezur Mountains
    Zangezur Mountains
    The Zangezur Mountains comprise a mountain range that defines the border between Armenia's southern province of Syunik and Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. The second largest tracts of forests in Armenia are located in the Zangezur Mountains where they cover more than 20% of the...

     of northwestern Iran;
  • in Middle Asia
    Middle Asia
    Middle Asia is a region of Asia from the Caspian Sea in the west, to Mongolia in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north. The geographical term has appeared sometime prior to the 20th century in the Russian Empire and was closely associated with the Russian Turkestan and the...

     : in southwestern Turkmenia along the Atrek River and its tributaries, Sumbar
    Sumbar River
    The Sumbar is a fast flowing river in southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran. It a tributary of the Atrek. The name Sari-su means yellow water in Turkic languages, but is applied to a number of other rivers as well.-Geography:The Sumbar is 245 km long and drains a basin of 8300 km²...

     and Chandyr rivers; in the western and southwestern parts of Kopet-Dag; in the environs of Ashkabad in the northern foothills; in Afghanistan along the upper reaches of Hari-Rud at Herat
    Herat
    Herāt is the capital of Herat province in Afghanistan. It is the third largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 397,456 as of 2006. It is situated in the valley of the Hari River, which flows from the mountains of central Afghanistan to the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan...

    , and along the jungles in the lower reaches of the river; around Tedzhen and Murgap
    Murgap, Turkmenistan
    Murgap is a town and capital of Murgap District in the Mary Province of Turkmenistan.It is located in the delta of the Murgab River and has a railway station on the Mary - Serhetabat line....

     and along the Kushka and Kashan rivers; in the Amu-Darya basin as far the Aral Sea
    Aral Sea
    The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

    ; along the Syr-Darya to the Fergana Valley
    Fergana Valley
    The Fergana Valley or Farghana Valley is a region in Central Asia spreading across eastern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Divided across three subdivisions of the former Soviet Union, the valley is ethnically diverse, and in the early 21st century was the scene of ethnic conflict...

     as far as Tashkent
    Tashkent
    Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan and of the Tashkent Province. The officially registered population of the city in 2008 was about 2.2 million. Unofficial sources estimate the actual population may be as much as 4.45 million.-Early Islamic History:...

     and the western spur of Talas Alatau; along the entire coast of the Aral Sea; along the Chu
    Chu River
    "Chui River" redirects here. For the South American Chuí or Chuy River, on the Brazil-Uruguay border and Brazil's southernmost point, see Chuí River. For the Nam Sam River or Chu River, on the Lao-Vietnam border, see Nam Sam River....

     and Ili River
    Ili River
    thumb|right|300px|Map of the Lake Balkhash drainage basin showing the Ili River and its tributariesThe Ili River is a river in northwestern China and southeastern Kazakhstan .It is long, of which is in Kazakhstan...

    s; all along the southern shore of Lake Balkhash
    Lake Balkhash
    Lake Balkhash is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 12th largest continental lake in the world. It is located in southeastern Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, and belongs to an endorheic basin shared by Kazakhstan and China, with a small part in Kyrgyzstan. The basin drains into the lake via seven...

    , and northwards into the southern Altai Mountains.


Their former distribution can be approximated by examining the distribution of ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s in the region. Wild pigs were the numerically dominant ungulates occurring in forested habitats, along watercourses, in reed beds and in thickets of the Caspian and Aral seas. Where watercourses penetrated deep into desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 areas, suitable wild pig and tiger habitat was often linear, only a few kilometers wide at most. Red
Red Deer
The red deer is one of the largest deer species. Depending on taxonomy, the red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being...

 and roe deer
Roe Deer
The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

 occurred in forests around the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 to the western side and around the southern end of the Caspian in a narrow belt of forest cover. Roe deer occurred in forested areas south of Lake Balkash. Bactrian deer
Bactrian deer
The Bactrian deer , also called the Bukhara deer, Bokhara deer or Bactrian wapiti, is a lowland subspecies of Red Deer that is native to central Asia. It is similar in ecology to the Yarkand deer in occupying riparian corridors surrounded by deserts...

 occurred in the narrow belt of forest habitat on the southern border of the Aral Sea, and southward along the Syr-Darya and Amu-Darya rivers.

Ecology



There is no data available for home ranges of Caspian tigers. In search of prey, Caspian tigers were compelled to prowl widely and follow ungulates from one pasture to another. Wild pigs and cervids formed their main prey base. In many regions of Middle Asia, Bactrian deer
Bactrian deer
The Bactrian deer , also called the Bukhara deer, Bokhara deer or Bactrian wapiti, is a lowland subspecies of Red Deer that is native to central Asia. It is similar in ecology to the Yarkand deer in occupying riparian corridors surrounded by deserts...

 and roe deer
Roe Deer
The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

 were important prey species apart from wild pigs. Occasionally, they also preyed on Caucasian red deer, on goitered gazelle
Goitered Gazelle
The Goitered, Black-tailed or Persian gazelle is a gazelle found in the north part of Azerbaijan, in a large area of central Asia, including part of Iran and southern west Pakistan in the western end of the range, as well as the Gobi desert...

 in Iran, on jackal
Jackal
Although the word jackal has been historically used to refer to many small- to medium-sized species of the wolf genus of mammals, Canis, today it most properly and commonly refers to three species: the black-backed jackal and the side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of...

s, jungle cat
Jungle Cat
The jungle cat is a medium-sized cat and considered the largest remaining species of the wild cat genus Felis. The species is also called the swamp lynx but is not closely related to the lynxes....

s, locust
Locust
Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory...

s and other small mammals in the lower Amu-Darya River area, on saiga, wild horse
Wild Horse
The wild horse is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the domesticated horse as well as the undomesticated Tarpan and Przewalski's Horse. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century, and Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced...

s, Mongolian Wild Ass
Mongolian Wild Ass
The Mongolian Wild Ass is a subspecies of the Onager. It may be synonymous with the Gobi Kulan, Chigetai or Dziggetai...

 and mountain sheep in the Zhana-Darya and around the Aral Sea, and on Manchurian wapiti
Manchurian wapiti
The Manchurian wapiti is a subspecies of elk, native to eastern Asia.-Description:This deer is reddish brown during summer, and brownish gray in winter. It has dark hairs on the neck and dark underparts, followed by a light-colored rump patch...

 and moose
Moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

 in the Baikal
Baikal
Baykal commonly refers to Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, Russia.Baykal or Baikal may also refer to:-Russia:*Baykal, Irkutsk Oblast, an urban-type settlement*Baykal, Aurgazinsky District, Republic of Bashkortostan, a village...

 area. They followed herds of migratory prey species like reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

, and caught fish in flooded areas and irrigation channels. In winter, they frequently attacked dogs and livestock straying away from herds. They preferred drinking water from rivers, and drank from lakes in seasons when water was less brackish.

Extirpation


The demise of the Caspian tiger began with Russian colonization of Turkestan during the late 19th century.Johnson, P. (1991) The birth of the Modern World Society, 1815-1830. HarperCollins Publishers, New York. ISBN 006016574X Their extirpation was a process intensified by several circumstances:
  • They were ruthlessly persecuted by large parties of sportsmen and military personnel who hunted wild pigs and tigers with reckless abandon.
  • The extensive reedbeds of tiger habitat were increasingly converted to cropland for plantations of cotton and other crops that grew well in the rich silt
    Silt
    Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

     along rivers, which were used as highways for colonization of riverine habitat.
  • Swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease
    Foot-and-mouth disease
    Foot-and-mouth disease or hoof-and-mouth disease is an infectious and sometimes fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including domestic and wild bovids...

     and calamities such as floods and fires caused large and rapid die-offs of wild pigs.
  • Tigers were already vulnerable
    Vulnerable species
    On 30 January 2010, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 9694 Vulnerable species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and sub-populations.-References:...

     due to the restricted nature of their distribution having been confined to watercourses in large expanses of desert environment.


Until the early 20th century, the regular Russian army was used to clear predators from forests, around settlements and potential agricultural lands. Until World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, about 50 tigers were killed alone in the forests of Amu-Darya and Piandj Rivers each year. High incentives were paid for tiger skins up to 1929. Wild pigs and deer, the prey base of the tigers, was decimated by deforestation and subsistence hunting by the increasing human population along the rivers, supported by the growing agricultural developments. By 1910, cotton plants were estimated to occupy nearly one-fifth of Turkestan's arable land, with about one half located in the Fergana Valley
Fergana Valley
The Fergana Valley or Farghana Valley is a region in Central Asia spreading across eastern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Divided across three subdivisions of the former Soviet Union, the valley is ethnically diverse, and in the early 21st century was the scene of ethnic conflict...

.

The last Caspian tigers


In Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 the only reported Caspian tiger was killed near Mosul
Mosul
Mosul , is a city in northern Iraq and the capital of the Ninawa Governorate, some northwest of Baghdad. The original city stands on the west bank of the Tigris River, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank, but the metropolitan area has now grown to encompass substantial...

 in 1887. The last known tiger in the Causasus region was killed in 1922 near Tbilisi
Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, after taking domestic livestock. They disappeared from the Tarim River
Tarim River
The Tarim River is the principal river of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China...

 basin in Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

 in the 1920s. In Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 the last tiger as recorded in 1948 in the environs of the Ili River
Ili River
thumb|right|300px|Map of the Lake Balkhash drainage basin showing the Ili River and its tributariesThe Ili River is a river in northwestern China and southeastern Kazakhstan .It is long, of which is in Kazakhstan...

, their last stronghold in the region of Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash
Lake Balkhash is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 12th largest continental lake in the world. It is located in southeastern Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, and belongs to an endorheic basin shared by Kazakhstan and China, with a small part in Kyrgyzstan. The basin drains into the lake via seven...

. In Turkmenistan the last tiger was killed in January 1954 in the valley of the Sumbar River
Sumbar River
The Sumbar is a fast flowing river in southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran. It a tributary of the Atrek. The name Sari-su means yellow water in Turkic languages, but is applied to a number of other rivers as well.-Geography:The Sumbar is 245 km long and drains a basin of 8300 km²...

 in the Kopet-Dag Range. In Iran's Golestān Province
Golestan Province
Golestan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran, located in the north-east of the country, south of the Caspian Sea. Its capital is Gorgan....

 one of the last tigers was shot in 1953; one individual was sighted in the area in 1958. In the Tian Shan
Tian Shan
The Tian Shan , also spelled Tien Shan, is a large mountain system located in Central Asia. The highest peak in the Tian Shan is Victory Peak , ....

 mountains west of Ürümqi
Ürümqi
Ürümqi , formerly Tihwa , is the capital of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, in the northwest of the country....

 in China, the last Caspian tigers disappeared from the Manasi River
Manasi River
The Manasi River is in the south of Dzungarian Basin, Xinjiang, China. Flowing into Lake Manasi, the river is about 450 km long....

 basin in the 1960s. The last record from the lower reaches of the Amu-Darya river near the Aral Sea
Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south...

 was an unconfirmed observation near Nukus
Nukus
Nukus is the sixth-largest city in Uzbekistan, and the capital of the autonomous Karakalpakstan Republic. It has a population of 260,000...

 in 1968. By the early 1970s, tigers disappeared from the river’s lower reaches and the Pyzandh Valley in the Turkmen-Uzbek-Afghan border region.

There are claims of a documented killing of a tiger at Uludere
Uludere
Uludere is a village and district of Şırnak Province of Turkey....

, Hakkari in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 in 1970. Questionnaire surveys conducted in southeastern Turkey revealed that one to eight tigers were killed each year in eastern Turkey until the mid 1980s, and that tigers likely had survived in the region until the early 1990s. Due to lack of interest in addition to security and safety reasons, no further field surveys were carried out in the area.

Last efforts to save Caspian tigers from extinction


In 1938, the first protected area Tigrovaya Balka, “tiger former river channel”, was established in Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

. The name was given to this zapovednik after a tiger had attacked two Russian Army officers riding horseback along a dried-up river channel called balka. Tigrovaya Balka was the last stronghold of Caspian tigers in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, and is situated in the lower reaches of Vakhsh River
Vakhsh River
The Vakhsh has been intensively developed for human use. Electricity, aluminum, and cotton are the mainstays of Tajikistan’s economy, and the Vakhsh is involved with all three of these sectors. Hydroelectricity provides 91% of the country’s electricity as of 2005, and 90% of that total comes from...

 between the Piandj
Panj River
The Panj River , also known as Pyandzh River or Piandj River , is a tributary of the Amu Darya. The river is 1,125 km long and forms a considerable part of the Afghanistan - Tajikistan border....

 and Kofarnihon River
Kofarnihon River
Kofarnihon River or Kofirnihan is one of the major tributaries of Amudarya...

 near the border of Afghanistan. The last Caspian tiger was seen there in 1958.

Since 1947, tigers were legally protected in the USSR.

In Iran Caspian tigers have been protected since 1957, with heavy fines for shooting. In the early 1970s, biologists from the Iran Department of the Environment searched several years for Caspian tigers in the uninhabitated areas of Caspian forests, but did not find any evidence of their presence.

Proposed restoration of tigers in Central Asia


Stimulated by recent findings that the Amur tiger is the closest relative of the Caspian tiger, discussions started if the Amur tiger could be an appropriate subspecies for reintroduction into a safe place in Central Asia. The Amu-Darya Delta was suggested as a potential site for such a project. A feasibility study was initiated to investigate if the area is suitable and if such an initiative would receive support from relevant decision makers. A viable tiger population of about 100 animals would require at least 5000 km² (1,930.5 sq mi) of large tracts of contiguous habitat with rich prey populations. Such habitat is not available at this stage and can not be provided in the short term. The proposed region is therefore unsuitable for the reintroduction, at least at this stage of developments.

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