Chinese zoologists have begun massive DNA testing of Siberian tigers at the country's two largest breeding centers to sort out the cats' bloodlines and avoid inbreeding.
Zoologists from the Chinese Academy of Forestry Sciences and northeast China's Heilongjiang Province are set to test more than 200 tigers at the Northeast Tiger Park and the Hengdaohezi tiger breeding center.
"The move is aimed at sorting out the pedigrees of the tigers to avoid weakening the species by inbreeding," the zoologists said.
So far, the zoologists have DNA tested 113 tigers in the centers using fur and blood samples.
Preliminary results show that inbreeding at the two centers remains at a low level.
The Siberian tiger is among the world's 10 most endangered species, with only about 400 living in the wild in Russia's far east and China's northeast.
According to zoologists, China now possesses advanced Siberian tiger breeding technology.
Officials at the two centers estimate that the number of artificially-bred Siberian tigers at the centers will rise to 500 by 2005 and on that basis that figure will double by 2010.
With proper survival training for the wild, more than 10 percent of the tigers will be sent back to their natural habitat, the officials said.
The two centers also plan to import 20 to 25 purebred Siberian tigers to improve the genetic quality of the local group, they added.
(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2002)