Asiatic Cheetah

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Asiatic-Cheetahs proven a separate sub-species; Should India still re-introduce African Cheetahs instead ?


LATEST NEWS 2011:



Need to Conserve Asiatic-Cheetahs now that they are scientifically proven to be a separate subspecies separated by 30,000 to 70,000 years from African cousins (Before Genetic Bottleneck in African Cheetahs);


Should India still re-introduce African Cheetahs instead ?


Comment:


PLEASE Note: India's western border is completely heavily fenced due to "National Defense" reasons hence reintroduced African Cheetahs cannot stray across from India to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to cross-breed with indigenous critically endangered population of pure Asiatic Cheetahs in Iran causing genetic pollution in the pure stock. There is also a possibility to switch cubs of reintroduced African Cheetahs with indigenous Asiatic Cheetahs in the wild to correct the balance at a future date meantime conservation of Indian Grasslands and their wildlife can proceed with the help of reintroduced African Cheethas. NOTE currently Critically Endangered Asiatic Cheetahs from Iran are not available for reintroduction experiment in India. Earlier in 2009 genetic and wildlife experts had advised to reintroduce the much commoner African Cheetah instead as its genetic make-up was then thought to be identical to Asiatic Cheetahs. If India switches from African to Asiatic Cheetahs in future all its African Cheetah tissue, sperm and ovaries can be cryopreserved in tissue, sperm & fertility banks to re-bolster the dwindling African population and this will serve as an insurance-cover for the African subspecies in the coming centuries as cryopreservation/freezing by dipping in Liquid Nitrogen is good for ever as per current research.



Atul Singh Nischal


Asiatic Lion Group: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/

Life member: Bombay Natural History Society

Life member: World Wide Fund for Nature - India



Earlier NEWS in 2009:


1)


"African and Asian cheetahs are similar in nature and have same genetic make-up. So India can have the animal from South Africa (FOR RE-INTRODUCTION) if it is not getting from Iran (which has already refused to part with its Asian cheetah)," noted cheetah expert Stephen J O Brien of Laboratory of Genomic Diversity of National Cancer Institute said.


SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Workshop-on-cheetah-relocation-begins-views-differ-/articleshow/4991394.cms


2)

Cheetah experts who gathered in Gajner in Rajasthan to discuss plans to reintroduce the animal in India have endorsed a proposal to bring cheetahs from Africa, six decades after they became extinct in the country.

There is no significant difference between the African and Asiatic cheetah and the animal can be reintroduced in India if habitat, adequate prey base and security are provided, said Stephen J. O’Brien, world’s leading conservation geneticist.

The African and Indian cheetahs were separated some 5,000 years ago and that is “not enough for a subspecies level differentiation”, he maintained, stressing that “your decisions should not be based on the genetic arguments” alone.

In comparison, the lion subspecies were separated some 100,000 years ago, so was the African and Asian leopard subspecies 169,000 years ago.

SOURCE:

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/enviornment/experts-eye-african-cheetahs-for-reintroduction-to-submit-plan_100245817.html


Earlier NEWS in 2005:

3)

India's ambitious plan to clone the (Asiatic) cheetah, which vanished from the subcontinent in 1962 due to largescale hunting, has run into a dead end.


Iran has refused to send two (Asiatic) cheetahs — a male and a female — to India for research purposes. They have also refused to allow a team of scientists from Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) to travel to Iran to collect sperm and tissue samples from a cheetah in a zoo there.


The CCMB has been trying for over six years to get some tissues of the animal from Iran for cloning.


CCMB director Lalji Singh and his team wanted to take the genes from live cheetah cells and fuse it with empty leopard eggs.


Any resulting embryos would then be carried in leopard surrogates. Iran is the only country where a close relative of the extinct Indian cheetah is found.


Singh, who was the first scientist in India to use DNA fingerprinting to solve criminal cases, said, "Iran and India were to jointly work on the conservation of cheetahs in Iran and cloning of cheetahs in India.


A team comprising members from the ministry of environment and forests, Zoo Authority of India, Wildlife Institute of India and the CCMB were to leave for Iran. I had personally made this request to Iranian president Mohammad Khatami when he visited CCMB."


"However, the Iranian government just recently informed us that they will not loan India two cheetahs or allow us to travel to Iran for sample collection," he said, adding, "The letter asked us to contact Africa which is home to a lot more cheetahs."

SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-cloning-of-Cheetah-Iran/articleshow/1165783.cms


LATEST NEWS 2011:




1)


Iran's endangered cheetahs are a unique subspecies

By Ella Davies, Earth News reporter, BBC

Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Monday, 24 January 2011


Iran's critically endangered cheetahs are the last remaining survivors of a unique, ancient Asian subspecies, genetics experts reveal.

New analysis confirms Iran's cheetahs belong to the subspeciesAcinonyx jubatus venaticus.

DNA comparisons show that these Asiatic cheetahs split from other cheetahs, which live in Africa, 30,000 years ago.

Researchers suggest that Iran's cheetahs must be conserved to protect the future of all cheetahs.


start_quote.gif With our data we prove that current Iranian cheetahs represent the historical Asiatic subspecies A j venaticus

end_quote.gif


Dr Pamela Burger


Cheetahs formerly existed in 44 countries in Africa but are now only found in 29.

Historically, they were also recorded across southwest and central Asia but can now only be found in Iran.

Scientists have previously said that cheetahs have low genetic variability, theorising that a "population crash" approximately 10,000 years ago led to inbreeding in the species.

Despite this, five 'different' subspecies are currently described according to where they live.

Genetic studies in the 1990s confirmed cheetahs found in southern Africa (A. j. jubatus) and east Africa (A. j. raineyi) as separate subspecies.

However, it has not been clear whether populations in west Africa (A. j. hecki), northern-east Africa (A. j. soemmeringii), and north Africa and Iran (A. j. venaticus) are genetically different enough to deserve their current status as subspecies.

Aiming to solve the puzzle of modern cheetahs' origins, scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria have been working in collaboration with the Iranian Department of Environment and wildcat conservation group Panthera.

Their findings are published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

SOURCES

Visit the journal Molecular Ecology to learn more about the origins of modern cheetahs


Dr Pamela Burger and her team analysed the DNA of cheetahs from a wide geographical and historical range, including medieval remains found in north-western Iran.

"With our data we prove that current Iranian cheetahs represent the historical Asiatic subspecies A.j. venaticus as they share a similar genetic profile with specimen originating from northwestern Iran in 800-900 CE," explains Dr Burger.

The researchers have also been able to distinguish Iranian cheetahs from their nearest neighbours in northern-east Africa which were confirmed as A. j. soemmeringii.

Cheetahs in north Africa, previously considered the same subspecies as those in Iran, were actually found to have more in common genetically with those in west Africa.

By comparing sequences in the DNA, researchers have found that the unique Asiatic cheetahs separated from the rest of the species in southern Africa over 30,000 years ago.

Dr Burger explains that because this split occurred long before the theorised population crash, A.j. venaticus represents a highly distinct lineage.

"The implications of our discovery are that the confirmation of the subspecies is a basis for future conservation management. If the aim is to conserve this biodiversity, subspecies should not be mixed," she says.

Currently estimated at just 60-100 individuals with less than half at mature breeding age, the Iranian cheetah population is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List.


CHEETAH FACTS


Cheetahs are the fastest mammals on land, reaching speeds of over 100kph (almost 65mph)

Cheetahs cannot fully retract their claws, the genus name Acinonyx means 'no-move-claw' in Greek.

Unlike other big cats, cheetahs cannot climb trees

inline_dashed_line.gif

Watch cheetahs hunting together


Together with the United Nations Development Programme, Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society the Iranian Department of the Environment has established a programme to make conservation of the Asiatic cheetah a national priority.

Conservationists are concerned that time is running out for Iran's cheetahs.

"We have been successful in stabilising numbers in Iran but we still have a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure," says Alireza Jourabchian, Director of the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Programme (CACP) in Iran.

Threats facing the small population include overhunting of cheetah prey, habitat degradation and direct poaching.


SOURCE:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9365000/9365567.stm



2)



Asian cheetahs racing toward extinction

By John Platt | Jan 24, 2011 05:05 PM | 0

ScientificAmerican.com Scientific American magazine


The conventional wisdom about cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) is wrong, according to new discoveries that could have wide-ranging impacts on conservation of the world's fastest land animal.

First of all, the long-held belief that cheetahs had little genetic variation throughout their range appears to be false. A study published January 8 in Molecular Ecology reveals that cheetahs in Asia—specifically Iran—are a subspecies that separated from their African cousins 30,000 to 70,000 years ago. The last 100 or so Iranian cheetahs, now dubbed A. j. venaticus, should be considered a conservation priority, the authors of the paper concluded.

"We are running out of time to save the Asiatic cheetah," Alireza Jourabchian, director of Iran's Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah program, said in a prepared statement. "We have been successful in stabilizing numbers in Iran but we still have a long way to go before we can consider this unique subspecies secure. We are hopeful these new findings will bring even greater attention to its plight."

Iran's remaining cheetahs are threatened by overhunting of their prey by humans, habitat degradation and poaching.
Meanwhile, the two African cheetah subspecies (A. j. soemmeringii in the continent's north and A. j. jubatus in its south) are also further apart genetically than previously believed.

This actually makes it even harder to conserve the Iranian cheetahs. If they were the same species or subspecies, African cats could be imported to Asia to renew and expand the isolated Iranian population. But because we now realize that African and Asian cheetahs are different subspecies, the Iranian population must remain pure for its unique genetic material to be preserved. Relocating African cheetahs to Iran "would promote interbreeding between the forms and thereby dilute the genetic distinctiveness of the Asiatic cheetahs," which probably evolved to suit their habitat, said one of the paper's authors, Pamela Burger of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

The new study took five years and also involved researchers from several national science bodies, universities and conservation groups. Another of the paper's authors, Antoinette Kotze, manager for research and scientific services at South Africa's National Zoological Gardens, told Times Live in Johannesburg that it was a "long and arduous project" involving gathering DNA samples from the wild, zoos and museums in eight countries.

All cheetahs remain threatened by habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. Last month, a cheetah escaped from its captors in the United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah, where it panicked worshippers at a local mosque before it was caught and placed in a wildlife sanctuary.

Speaking of relocation, India is slowly moving forward on its plan to reintroduce cheetahs to that country. India's ministry of forest and environment has chosen two sites for reintroduction, but locals protested that the cats could be a danger to people, tourism and the oil industry. But R. K. Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, disagrees, telling The Times of India that "bringing the cheetah to the Shahgarh Bulge will not affect tourism or oil exploration in the region." India's original plan was to source cheetahs from multiple locations, including Iran, but that might need to be revisited now that the new subspecies has been recognized.

Photo via Wikipedia

More Extinction Countdown:

Previous: 70 percent of Turkey's birds are headed toward extinction


SOURCE:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=asian-cheetahs-racing-toward-extinc-2011-01-24



3)


Iran cheetahs, unique subspecies

Mon Jan 24, 2011; presstv.ir

Genetic studies have revealed that Iran's endangered cheetahs are the last remaining survivors of the ancient Asian subspecies Acinonyx jubatus venaticus.


DNA analyses by scientists of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna showed that the Asiatic cheetahs split from other cheetahs, which lived in Africa, 30,000 years ago.


According to the study published in the journal Molecular Ecology, scientists analyzed the DNA of cheetahs from a wide geographical and historical range, including medieval remains found in northwestern Iran.


"With our data we prove that current Iranian cheetahs represent the historical Asiatic subspecies A.j. venaticus as they share a similar genetic profile with specimen originating from northwestern Iran in 800-900 CE," said Dr. Pamela Burger.


The team could also distinguish Iranian cheetahs from their nearest neighbors in northern-east Africa which were confirmed as A. j. soemmeringii.


Researchers say Iran's cheetahs must be conserved to protect the future of all cheetahs, the state-funded BBC reported.


Cheetahs used to exist in 44 African countries and across southwest and central Asia, but now they are only found in 29 African states and Iran.


Cheetahs were previously believed to have low genetic variability, caused by a "population crash" approximately 10,000 years ago.


There are, however, five 'different' subspecies currently described according to their habitat.


Genetic studies in the 1990s confirmed cheetahs of southern Africa (A. j. jubatus) and east Africa (A. j. raineyi) as separate subspecies.


Scientists are not certain whether the populations in West Africa (A. j. hecki), northern-east Africa (A. j. soemmeringii), and North Africa and Iran (A. j. venaticus) are different enough to remain subspecies.


Working in collaboration with the Iranian Department of Environment and the wildcat conservation group of Panthera, Dr. Burger and her team found that the unique Asiatic cheetahs separated from other southern African species more than 30,000 years ago.


According to Burger, since the split occurred long before the population crash, A.j. venaticus represents a highly distinct lineage.


"The implications of our discovery are that the confirmation of the subspecies is a basis for future conservation management. If the aim is to conserve this biodiversity, subspecies should not be mixed," she says.


The Iranian cheetah population is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List as there are an estimated number of 60 to 100 Iranian cheetahs with less than half at mature breeding age.


Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society the Iranian Department of the Environment have joined the United Nations Development Program to turn conservation of the Asiatic cheetah into a national priority.


"We have been successful in stabilizing numbers in Iran but we still have a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure," said Director of the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Programme (CACP) in Iran Alireza Jourabchian.


Overhunting of cheetah prey, habitat degradation and direct poaching are among the many serious threats endangering the small population of Iranian cheetahs.


TE/HGH


SOURCE:

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/161761.html


4)


Press Release: Study Reveals Genetic Distinction of Asiatic Cheetah


20 Jan 2011, Panthera Press Release


A new study published in the journal Molecular Ecologyreveals that the last remaining 70-110 Asiatic cheetahs now confined to the Iranian plateau are genetically distinct from the African cheetah, and are the last living representatives of the Asiatic subspecies. These data confirm that cheetah populations found in northern-east Africa & Asia are markedly different from cheetah populations occupying southern Africa. These developments demonstrate the urgency of the conservation of the Asiatic cheetah. Iran’s Department of the Environment partnered with Panthera, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the United Nations Development Programme, to protect the Asiatic cheetah and its prey base through the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project by using camera traps and radio-collars to collect critical data on the ecology of cheetahs.

Read Panthera’s Press Release – New Study Confirms Need for Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah.

Learn about the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project.

SOURCE:

http://www.panthera.org/blog/press-release-study-reveals-genetic-distinction-asiatic-cheetah


5)


Panthera:

NEW STUDY CONFIRMS NEED FOR CONSERVATION OF ASIATIC

CHEETAHS

January 17, 2011; Panthera For Immediate Release

Contact for Panthera: Robert Ludke 202-354-8235 // rludke@pstrategies.com

NEW STUDY CONFIRMS NEED FOR CONSERVATION OF ASIATIC

CHEETAHS

Findings will have profound and far-reaching implications for the conservation of

cheetahs in Northern-East Africa and Asia, which differ markedly from cheetah

populations in Southern Africa.

Very few cheetahs exist in the wild in Asia, where the species is now reduced to an

estimated 70-110 individuals, all of them in Iran. It has long been believed that cheetahs

show relatively low levels of genetic variation, although previous studies have not

examined the entire geographic range. Now, a new study led by Pamela Burger and

Pauline Charruau of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria shows that

cheetahs in Northern-East Africa (Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and those in

Asia differ markedly from the populations in Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia,

Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo). The results are the first to

include specimens from Iran, and are published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

“This important study clearly confirms that the cheetah habitat continues to fragment, and

emphasizes the uniqueness of the Asiatic cheetah which is now critically endangered,”

said George Schaller, Vice President of Panthera. “Only Iran can now save it, and the

country is fully dedicated to doing so as part of its natural heritage and that of the world.”

Burger and her colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna collaborated

with groups in Portugal, Germany, the United States, Iran, the United Arab Emirates,

France and South Africa to investigate a large number of cheetah DNA samples. The

researchers even included in their study DNA that they extracted from bones found in

mediaeval sites in north-west Iran. By means of sophisticated statistical methods to

compare the sequences of certain pieces of the DNA, the scientists were able to assess the

greatest range of diversity in the species assessed to date.

The study showed that Iranian cheetahs are the last representatives of the Asiatic

subspecies and quite distinct from their African relatives, placing even greater urgency on

their conservation. Through its CACP programme, a joint initiative between the Iranian

Department of Environment (who cooperated on the paper) and United Nations

Development Programme, the conservation of the Asiatic cheetah has been made a

national priority.

“We are running out of time to save the Asiatic cheetah,” stated Alireza Jourabchian, the

Director of the CACP in Iran. “We have been successful in stabilising the numbers in

Iran but there is still a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species

secure. We are hopeful these new findings bring even greater attention to their plight.”

Through its cooperation with the CACP, Panthera is helping protect the last remaining

Iranian cheetahs, and their prey base by; utilizing camera traps and radio-collars to collect

critical data on the ecology of cheetahs. The CACP-Panthera partnership resulted in the

first radiocollared cheetahs in 2007-2008, and hopes to deploy more radio-collars in

2011.

“The Asiatic cheetah is a fantastic animal,” said Luke Hunter, Executive Vice President

of Panthera. “It has been part of Persian culture for 2000 years, and deserves to be for

2000 more. We’re delighted to be part of the effort led by CACP to conserve the very few

remaining individuals.”

The paper Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs

in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates by P. Charruau, C.

Fernandes, P. Orozco-terWengel, J. Peters, L. Hunter, H. Ziaie, A. Jourabchian, H.

Jowkar, G. Schaller, S. Ostrowski, P. Vercammen, T. Grange, C. Schlötterer, A. Kotze,

E-M. Geigl, C. Walzer and P.A. Burger is published online and will be available in a

forthcoming issue. The digital object identifier is: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x.

About Panthera


Panthera, founded in 2006, is the world’s leading organization devoted exclusively to the

conservation of wild cats and their ecosystems. Utilizing the expertise of the world’s

premier cat biologists, Panthera develops and implements global conservation strategies

for the largest, most imperiled cats – tigers, lions, jaguars, cheetahs and snow leopards.

Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera works in partnership

with local and international NGOs, scientific institutions, local communicates and

governments. Visit http://www.panthera.org/

PHOTO: Asiatic cheetah in Bafgh Protected Area, Iran

PHOTO: Asiatic cheetah in Khar Touran National Park, Iran

###


SOURCE:

http://www.panthera.org/sites/default/files/NEW%20STUDY%20CONFIRMS%20NEED%20FOR%20CONSERVATION%20OF%20ASIATIC%20CHEETAHS_01172011.pdf


6)


The Need for Conservation of Asiatic Cheetahs

ScienceDaily (Jan. 17, 2011) — The United Nations declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity and invited the world to take action to safeguard the variety of life on earth. Unfortunately, though, it is seldom completely clear what should be safeguarded. An example is provided by the cheetah, which conventional wisdom tells us does not vary much throughout its wide (if shrinking) range.


Recent work in the group of Pamela Burger of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna challenges this view and shows that the cheetahs in Northern-East Africa and those in Asia differ markedly from the populations in Southern Africa. The results are published in the current issue of the journal Molecular Ecology and have profound and far-reaching implications for the conservation of the species.

Historically, cheetahs were widespread throughout Africa and much of Southwest Asia, ranging through Kazakhstan and the entire Indian peninsula. The present situation is very different and the remaining animals are concentrated in certain areas in southern and eastern Africa. Very few cheetahs now exist in the wild in Asia, where the species is confined to small areas in Iran. It has long been believed that cheetahs show relatively low levels of genetic variation, although previous studies have not examined the entire geographic range. Pauline Charruau and Pamela Burger of the Institute of Population Genetics at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have collaborated with groups in a number of other countries -- Portugal, Germany, the United States, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, France and South Africa -- to investigate a large number of cheetah DNA samples. The researchers even included in their study DNA that they extracted from bones found in mediaeval sites in north-west Iran. By means of sophisticated statistical methods to compare the sequences of certain pieces of the DNA, the scientists were able to gain a far more complete picture of the range of diversity in the species.

The results are dramatic. Cheetahs in Northern-East Africa (in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti) differ significantly from the animals further south. Furthermore, the few cheetahs remaining in Iran are markedly distinct. It seems likely that the populations separated about 30,000 to 70,000 years ago and are thus more ancient than previously suspected. The cheetahs in Southern and Eastern Africa are known to represent two closely related subspecies but Burger's work reveals that the other subspecies in Northern-East Africa and in Asia represent older and highly distinct lineages.

The populations in sub-Saharan Africa are relatively secure but this is unfortunately not the case for the subspecies in Asia. And because Iranian cheetahs are the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies and are so dissimilar from their African relatives, their conservation is a priority. There are only about 100 individuals left in Iran, possibly even fewer, so urgent action is needed to ensure the survival of this distinct form. Together with the United Nations Development Programme, the Iranian Department of the Environment (which cooperated on the paper) has established a comprehensive programme (CACP) that makes conservation of the Asiatic cheetah a national priority. Nevertheless, "We are running out of time to save the Asiatic cheetah," says Alireza Jourabchian, Director of the CACP in Iran. "We have been successful in stabilizing numbers in Iran but we still have a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure. We are hopeful these new findings will bring even greater attention to its plight."

A strategy that has been frequently employed to conserve endangered species is to capture individuals in an area where the animals are common and release them at sites where they are rare. Along these lines, the critically low Iranian population could be supplemented with animals taken from Southern and Northern-East Africa but the findings from Burger's group argue strongly against such a course. As Burger says, "it would promote interbreeding between the forms and thereby dilute the genetic distinctiveness of the Asiatic cheetahs, which is presumably related to the habitats and prey available in Asia."

Email or share this story:





|


More




Story Source:

The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided byVeterinärmedizinische Universität Wien, viaAlphaGalileo.



Journal Reference:

  1. P. Charruau, C. Fernandes, P. Orozco-Terwengel, J. Peters, L. Hunter, H. Ziaie, A. Jourabchian, H. Jowkar, G. Schaller, S. Ostrowski, P. Vercammen, T. Grange, C. Schlötterer, A. Kotze, E.-M. Geigl, C. Walzer, P. A. Burger.Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates. Molecular Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x


Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

APA


MLA

Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien (2011, January 17). The need for conservation of Asiatic cheetahs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110117082300.htm


Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.


SOURCE:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110117082300.htm



7)



Three distinct cheetah


populations, but Iran's


on the brink


Jan 18, 2011; By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY


The Earth's rapidly dwindling cheetah populations are more distinct than scientists had previously believed, a new genetic analysis of the cats finds.

Cheetahs are the fastest land animal alive, capable of reaching speeds of up to 75 miles an hour as they hunt and able to go from 0 to 65 mph in three seconds.

The researchers, lead by Pamela Burger and Pauline Charruauof the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria, did a genetic analysis of 94 cheetahs, both living and from two bones found at an archeological site in Iran from between the 9th and 10th centuries. They found three distinct subspecies of cheetah, the Northern-East African (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii,) Southern African (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) and Asiatic (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus.)

The Northern-East African population is found in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Southern Africa cheetahs are found in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo). There's also some evidence of another subspecies in North Africa, historically classified as Acinonyx jubatus hecki, but more sampling will be necessary to prove it, the authors write.


Asiatic_cheetah2x-wide-community.jpg


CAPTION

By Nader Karami, Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project


The Asiatic cheetah, now found only in Iran, is very distinct from its African cousins. Unfortunately, the population is down to between 70 and 110 individuals, experts estimate. There were still large numbers of cheetahs in Asia until the 19th century, when human population pressures as well as the cat's popularity as hunting aides among royalty lessened their numbers.

Estimating gene flow and mutation rates is a tricky thing, the authors acknowledge. The best times they can give are probably that the two African cheetah populations diverged between 16,000 and 72,000 years ago and that the Asiatic and Southern African cheetah populations appear to have split between 32 000–67 000 years .

Their paper, Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates is published onlineand will be available in a forthcoming issue of Molecular Ecology.

"We are running out of time to save the Asiatic cheetah," stated Alireza Jourabchian, the Director of the Conservation of Asiatic Cheetah Project.

Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah program in Iran. "We have been successful in stabilizing the numbers in Iran but there is still a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure. We are hopeful these new findings bring even greater attention to their plight."


SOURCE:

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/sciencefair/post/2011/01/three-distinct-cheetah-populations-but-irans-on-the-brink/1



8)










hylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time


of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term


geographic isolates


Skip to Main Content

WOL-Leaderboard_v12.gif

siteLogo.gif

Home

Help


LOGIN

Enter e-mail address

Enter password

REMEMBER ME


JOURNAL TOOLS

JOURNAL MENU

FIND ISSUES

FIND ARTICLES

GET ACCESS

FOR CONTRIBUTORS

ABOUT THIS JOURNAL

SPECIAL FEATURES

817-grey.gif

olbannerleft.gif

MEC_centre.gif

You have full text access to this OnlineOpen article

Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates

  • P. CHARRUAU1,2, C. FERNANDES3, P. OROZCO-terWENGEL1, J. PETERS4, L. HUNTER5, H. ZIAIE6, A. JOURABCHIAN7,H. JOWKAR5, G. SCHALLER5,8, S. OSTROWSKI8, P. VERCAMMEN9, T. GRANGE10, C. SCHLÖTTERER1, A. KOTZE11,12, E.-M. GEIGL10, C. WALZER2,P. A. BURGER1,2

Article first published online: 8 JAN 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x

© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Issue

cover.gif

Molecular Ecology

Early View (Articles online in advance of print)

Additional Information(Show All)

How to Cite

Author Information

Publication History


SEARCH

Search Scope

All contentPublication titlesIn this journalIn this issueBy Citation

Search String


ARTICLE TOOLS

Get PDF (646K)

Keywords:

  • Acinonyx jubatus;
  • conservation genetics;
  • divergence time;
  • phylogeography;
  • population genetics;
  • subspecies

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Abstract

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has been described as a species with low levels of genetic variation. This has been suggested to be the consequence of a demographic bottleneck 10 000–12 000 years ago (ya) and also led to the assumption that only small genetic differences exist between the described subspecies. However, analysing mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites in cheetah samples from most of the historic range of the species we found relatively deep phylogeographic breaks between some of the investigated populations, and most of the methods assessed divergence time estimates predating the postulated bottleneck. Mitochondrial DNA monophyly and overall levels of genetic differentiation support the distinctiveness of Northern-East African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii). Moreover, combining archaeozoological and contemporary samples, we show that Asiatic cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) are unambiguously separated from African subspecies. Divergence time estimates from mitochondrial and nuclear data place the split between Asiatic and Southern African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) at 32 000–67 000 ya using an average mammalian microsatellite mutation rate and at 4700–44 000 ya employing human microsatellite mutation rates. Cheetahs are vulnerable to extinction globally and critically endangered in their Asiatic range, where the last 70–110 individuals survive only in Iran. We demonstrate that these extant Iranian cheetahs are an autochthonous monophyletic population and the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies A. j. venaticus. We advocate that conservation strategies should consider the uncovered independent evolutionary histories of Asiatic and African cheetahs, as well as among some African subspecies. This would facilitate the dual conservation priorities of maintaining locally adapted ecotypes and genetic diversity.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Introduction

At the end of the nineteenth century, cheetahs were widespread across Africa and much of Asia, ranging from the Indian peninsula to Kazakhstan and Southwest Asia (Pocock 1939; Durant et al. 2008). Today only fragmented populations remain on both continents (Durantet al. 2008) and are traditionally classified in four African and one Asiatic subspecies (Fig. 1a) (Krausman & Morales 2005). Despite its vast geographical distribution over two continents, the cheetah is regarded as a genetically depauperate species (O’Brien et al. 1987; May 1995; Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1995; O’Brien & Johnson 2005). This low genetic variability is considered to be the result of a bottleneck at the end of the Pleistocene [10 000–12 000 years ago (ya); O’Brien et al. 1987; Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1993; O’Brien & Johnson 2005] and has been offered as a possible explanation for the population decline. However, there is little evidence of inbreeding depression in wild cheetahs (Caro & Laurenson 1994). In fact, anthropogenic habitat modification, replacement of wild prey with livestock and concomitant persecution by people (Laurenson 1994; Durant et al. 2008; Marker et al. 2008) account for the dramatic decline in historical range and numbers (Caro & Laurenson 1994). While it is unclear if Asiatic populations ever reached the density of their African counterparts, historical records report large numbers of cheetahs in Asia until the nineteenth century. During the Middle Ages and early Modern Times, Mughal emperors, in particular Akbar the Great (1556–1605), were known to keep thousands of cheetahs as hunting aids (Pocock 1939; Nowell & Jackson 1996; Allsen 2006; Divyabhanusinh 2007). This practice spread to Europe (Masseti 2009) and Southwest Asia (Brehm 1879; Allsen 2006) until cheetahs became rare, which led to regular imports of individuals from East Africa (Pocock 1939;Divyabhanusinh 2007) into India during the European colonial era. Until now, only sub-Saharan populations (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1995; Freeman et al. 2001; Burger et al. 2004; Kotze et al. 2008; Marker et al. 2008) and a few Algerian individuals (Busby et al. 2009) have been investigated using genetic markers. Accordingly, comprehensive data regarding the relationships among all African subspecies and between African and Asiatic cheetah populations are still lacking.

Figure 1. Median-joining (MJ) networks showing phylogeographic structure in African and Asiatic cheetahs. (a) Geographical distribution of the cheetah subspecies and sample repartition. Solid and dashed lines represent the historical distributions of the African and Asiatic cheetah subspecies, respectively (Nowell & Jackson 1996; Krausman & Morales 2005). Hatched fields correspond to current cheetah populations (Durant et al. 2008). The different colour shades refer to the screened cheetah subspecies, Acinonyx jubatus jubatus (red), A. j. raineyi (yellow), A. j. soemmeringii (purple),A. j. venaticus (green), and to the North African cheetah population (blue). Stars indicate the archaeological sites of Bastam and Takht-e Suleyman, Iran. The dotted line represents the southern boundary of the Sahara. The background map was retrieved from http://www.planiglobe.com (accessed 14 January 2010). (b) MJ-network based on the 139-bp concatenated mitochondrial sequence alignment of 94 samples. (c) MJ network based on the 915-bp concatenated mitochondrial fragment obtained from 62 modern and 16 historical cheetah samples. The consensus networks of all the shortest trees are shown. The specimens included are colour-coded according to their geographical origins (country codes following ISO 3166-Alpha 2). Small black squares represent median vectors, which correspond to either homoplasies or missing haplotypes. Red numbers above lines refer to nucleotide mutations separating the haplotypes [numbering according to GenBank (Accession no. GI:38349475.1)]. Positions 12665–12667 correspond to a 3-bp indel in MT-ND5, which we parsimoniously considered as a single evolutionary event. Exact positions of the concatenated mitochondrial fragments are given in Table S1.

MEC_4986_f1_thumb.gif

In this study, we investigated the phylogeography, genetic structure and evolutionary history of cheetahs from most extant and recently extinct populations in Africa and Asia. We give particular attention to the Asiatic cheetah, because it is critically endangered and restricted to a small remnant population in Iran and possibly a few individuals in Pakistan (Farhadinia 2004) and Afghanistan (Manati & Nogge 2008). Asiatic cheetahs are known to occur in 13 sites in central and northern Iran where the total population is estimated at 70–110 (Farhadinia 2004; CACP 2008). Widespread poaching of the cheetah’s prey base and persecution by local livestock herders are the main causes of the cheetah’s recent decline and, together with road accidents, are likely the limiting factors to their recovery today (Hunter et al.2007; CACP 2008). Historical records of extinction in the Arabian Peninsula indicate that this population became progressively and ultimately isolated from any potential link to Africa between approximately 1950 and 1980 (Hunter & Hamman 2003). However, it was unclear if demographic and genetic exchange between African and Asiatic cheetahs occurred prior to this recent anthropogenic isolation. To investigate these questions, we apply palaeogenetic analyses to compare extinct and extant Asiatic cheetahs with the major African populations. By demonstrating that all Northern-East African individuals, as well as all Asiatic cheetahs group within independent clusters, clearly distinct from other genotypes and monophyletic for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), we identify these two populations as long-term geographic isolates. The identification of taxonomic and populations units, and understanding their evolutionary relationships, is essential for the conservation of biological diversity (Allendorf & Luikart 2007). Within species, preservation of genetically distinct local populations maintains evolutionary processes and potential and minimizes extinction risks (Frankham et al. 2009).

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Materials and methods

Sample collection

Details on the origin and sample type of the 94 cheetahs included in this study are provided in Table 1. Modern samples were either collected non-invasively, during routine veterinary treatment, or post mortem. The osseous remains of cheetahs analysed in this study were collected from the archaeological sites of Bastam and Tahkt-e Suleyman in the Province of West Azerbaijan, Northwest Iran. Bastam is situated 50 km north of the city of Khvoy, close to the Turkish border at an altitude of 1300 m. First inhabited in Urartian times and destroyed by a fire c. 650 bce (Before Common Era), Bastam was reoccupied during the Median and Persian period (550–330 bce) and finally in mediaeval times. Archaeological excavations in the 1970s produced a large faunal assemblage (n = 26 987) (Boessneck & Krauß 1973; Krauß 1975). From a mediaeval context (9th–15th century ce), a complete Os metatarsale IV was recovered. Originally described as a wolf metatarsal (Boessneck & Krauß 1973), the specimen was re-identified after a thorough comparison with fourth metatarsal bones of modern Acinonyx jubatus. The site of Tahkt-e Suleyman (lit. ‘Throne of Salomon’) lies midway between Urmia and Hamadan, about 30 km north of the town of Takab at an altitude of 2000 m. Archaeological excavations carried out in the 1960s revealed Achaemenid/Persian, Parthian, Sassanid and mediaeval inhabitation, and produced a faunal assemblage of 4000 bones. Kolb (1972) assigned a mandible, a cervical vertebra, and left and right coxal bones to A. jubatus, based on morphological criteria. The presence of postcranial fragments is strongly indicative of a local origin of the animal(s) and not of an individual whose pelt had been traded into the site. The mandible, vertebra and one coxa from the site of Tahkt-e Suleyman, as well as the metatarsus from Bastam, were subjected to palaeogenetic analysis. All cheetah bones date to the 9th and/or 10th centuries ce.

Table 1.  Details on the samples used in this study

No.

ID

Type

Origin (time*)

Collection place


  • *Date of collection of historical samples, if available.

  • #: registration number in the international cheetah studbook (Marker 2009); maxillot. bone: maxilloturbinate bone; museum tissue: dried tissue remaining on the skull; IR: Ariz & Bafq Protected Area, eastern Yazd province, Naybandan Wildlife Refuge south of Tabas, IR; Sarjah: Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, AE; HZM: Harrison Institute, Sevenoaks, GB; NHM: Natural History Museum; SAP: State Collection of Anthropology and Palaeoanatomy, Munich, DE; SMN: Museum of Natural Sciences, Stuttgart, DE; SMN: Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Frankfurt, DE; DECAN: DECAN rescue centre, Djibouti, DJ; La Palmyre: Parc zoologique de La Palmyre, FR; Zoo Lunaret: Parc Zoologique Henri de Lunaret, Montpellier, FR; NZG: National Zoological Gardens, Pretoria, ZA; NMSZ: National museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, GB; RMCA: Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren, BE. Country codes following ISO 3166-Alpha 2.

1

AJI 01

Faeces

Iran (IR)

IR

2

AJI 02

Faeces

IR

IR

3

AJI 03

Faeces

IR

IR

4

AJI M1A

Faeces

IR

IR

5

AJI M2A

Faeces

IR

IR

6

AJI T

Faeces

IR

IR

7

AJI 08

Faeces

IR

IR

8

AJI 11

Faeces

IR

IR

9

AJI 04

Museum tissue

IR

Sharjah, AE

10

HZM 2.26502

Hide

Oman (OM; 1977)

HZM, GB

11

ZMB 56122

Hide

Jordan (JO)

NHM Berlin, DE

12

BMNH ZD 1939.536

Hide

IR

NHM London, GB

13

SAPM-Gepard-1a-F6-Ba

Metatarsal bone

IR, Bastam (800–900 ce)

SAP Munich, DE

14

SAPM-Gepard-1b-TeS1

Mandible + vertebra

IR, Tahkt-e Suleyman (800–900 ce)

SAP Munich, DE

15

BMNH ZD 1943.56

Museum tissue

Iraq (IQ; 1928)

NHM London, GB

16

BMNH 32.4.7.1

Hide

India (IN; 1925)

NHM London, GB

17

SMNS 18941

Maxillot. bone

Egypt (EG; T. v.Heuglin; 1850s)

SMN Stuttgart, DE

18

SMF 58993

Hide

EG, Libyan Desert (1974)

SM Frankfurt, DE

19

NMW 12071

Hide

Libya (LY)

NHM Vienna, AT

20

NMW 12070

Hide

LY

NHM Vienna, AT

21

BMNH ZD 1957.312

Hide

LY (1955)

NHM London, GB

22

BMNH ZD 1939.1685

Museum tissue

Algeria (DZ)

NHM London, GB

23

ZMB 56277

Maxillot. bone

Western Sahara (EH)

NHM Berlin, DE

24

ZMB 42242

Hide

EH, Rio d’Oro

NHM Berlin, DE

25

ADJ 2

Hair

Ethiopia (ET), custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

26

ADJ 3

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

27

ADJ 4

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

28

ADJ 5

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

29

ADJ 6

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

30

ADJ 8

Hair

Djibouti (DJ)

DECAN, DJ

31

#4421

Skin

Somalia (SO)

Sharjah, AE

32

#4499

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

33

#4500

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

34

#4203

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

35

#4208

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

36

#4202

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

37

#4223

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

38

#4205

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

39

#4229

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

40

#4228

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

41

#4206

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

42

#4201

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

43

#4418

Skin

SO

Sharjah, AE

44

#4222

Blood

SO

Sharjah, AE

45

#4216

Skin

SD

Sharjah, AE

46

LP4304

Hair

Northern-east Africa (N-E.A)

La Palmyre, FR

47

#4415

Skin

N-E.A

Sharjah, AE

48

SMNS 38432

Hide

DJ, custom’s seizure (<1985)

SMN Stuttgart, DE

49

ADJ 1

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

50

ADJ 7

Hair

ET, custom’s seizure

DECAN, DJ

51

Claudia

Faeces

Kenya (KE)

DECAN, DJ

52

ZMB34306

Maxillot. bone

Tanzania (TZ)

MHN Berlin, DE

53

ZMB56287

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

54

ZMB56302

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

55

ZMB56306

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

56

ZMB56309

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

57

Tigger

Faeces

KE

DECAN, DJ

58

ZMB56128

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

59

ZMB56289

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

60

ZMB56293

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

61

ZMB56299

Maxillot. bone

TZ

MHN Berlin, DE

62

GACH 18/08

Blood

South Africa (ZA)

Pretoria NZG, ZA

63

GACH 23/06

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

64

GACH 26/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

65

GACH 33/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

66

GACH 35/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

67

GACH 38/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

68

GACH 42/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

69

GACH 44/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

70

GACH 45/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

71

#1463

Lung

Namibia (NA) descendant

La Palmyre, FR

72

#1557/NMSZ 2001.37

Muscle

NA

NMSZ, GB

73

S1571

Muscle

ZA descendant

Private owner, DE

74

1921

Muscle

NA descendant

Zoo Salzburg, AT

75

#3155/NMSZ 2000.151.2

Muscle

NA descendant

NMSZ, GB

76

#3240

Faeces

ZA descendant

Zoo Vienna, AT

77

GACH 34/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

78

#3779/NMSZ 1999.221

Muscle

ZA descendant

NMSZ, GB

79

Douma

Muscle

ZA

Zoo Lunaret, FR

80

GACH 25/08

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

81

GACH33

Blood

ZA

Pretoria NZG, ZA

82

GACH 01/08

Blood

Botswana (BW)

Pretoria NZG, ZA

83

GACH 02/08

Blood

BW

Pretoria NZG, ZA

84

GACH 11/08

Blood

BW

Pretoria NZG, ZA

85

GACH 12/08

Blood

BW

Pretoria NZG, ZA

86

GACH 15/08

Blood

BW

Pretoria NZG, ZA

87

GACH 16/08

Blood

BW

Pretoria NZG, ZA

88

#4268

Skin

NA

Sharjah, AE

89

#2486/ZFMK 2005.357

Hide

ZA, king cheetah

MHN Bonn, DE

90

RMCA 454

Maxillot. bone

D.R.Congo (CD)

RMCA, BE

91

RMCA 1236

Maxillot. bone

CD

RMCA, BE

92

RMCA 19237

Maxillot. bone

CD

RMCA, BE

93

RMCA 22347

Maxillot. bone

CD

RMCA, BE

94

RMCA 22390

Maxillot. bone

CD

RMCA, BE

95

Puma concolor

Blood

Unknown

Zoo Salzburg, AT

DNA extraction

Ancient DNA extractions from mediaeval cheetah specimens were performed in highly contained laboratories of the palaeogenetic core facility at the Institute Jacques Monod, Paris (see Supporting Information). The superficial layer of the small bone fragments was removed and samples were ground to a fine powder in a freezer mill (Freezer Mill-6750; Spex Certiprep). The bone powder (180 mg) was incubated (37 °C; 48 h) in extraction buffer (0.5 m EDTA pH 8.0; 0.25 m sodium phosphate buffer pH 8.0; 1 mmß-Mercapto-ethanol). The extract was purified according to an improved protocol using the QIAquick gel extraction kit (Qiagen). Museum skin pieces were incubated twice (24 h) in TE buffer to remove potential enzyme inhibitors (Johnson et al. 2004). Complete enzyme digestion was carried out in an improved lysis buffer [100 mm Tris–HCl pH 8.0; 100 mm NaCl; 3 mm CaCl2; 2%N-lauroyl-sarcosyl (NLS); 40 mm DTT; 5 mm PTB (N-phenacyl-thiazolium-bromide (Vasan et al. 1996) in 10 mm phosphate buffer); 340 μg proteinase K] (Pfeiffer et al. 2004). After 24 h one-eighths of an Inhibitex pill (Qiagen) was added to the samples, which had extensively undergone a tanning process. Maxilloturbinate bone shreds (Wisely et al. 2004) were ground and the bone powder was incubated (56 °C; 48 h) in lysis buffer (0.5 m EDTA pH 8.0; 0.25 msodium phosphate buffer pH 8.0; 1 mmß-Mercapto-ethanol; 2% NLS; 340 μg proteinase K). DNA extraction was performed with commercial kits (Qiagen) in the presence of negative controls. Genomic DNA of modern samples was isolated from blood and tissue with the NucleoSpin®-Tissue Kit (Macherey-Nagel). Faeces were processed, following a two-step storage protocol (Nsubuga et al. 2004), with the QIAamp DNA Stool Mini Kit (Qiagen). Hair samples were digested with a lysis buffer (Pfeiffer et al. 2004) and DNA was extracted with the NucleoSpin®-Tissue Kit (Macherey-Nagel). Two independent extractions were carried out for the mediaeval bones, as well as for the other samples where sufficient material (i.e. museum specimen) was available.

Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and sequencing of mediaeval cheetah specimens

Fragments of 139 base pairs (bp), including 14 informative polymorphisms in NADH-dehydrogenase subunit 5 (MT-ND5) and control region (MT-CR) (Tables 2 and S1), were amplified from two mediaeval and 14 museum specimens by UNG-coupled quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (UQPCR) (Pruvost et al. 2005) with the LightCycler® FastStart DNA MasterPLUS SYBR Green I mix (Roche Diagnostics GmbH). Quantification of initial target molecules was performed using a titration curve established with a homologous reference (DNA from a Namibian specimen of A. j. jubatus) according to Pruvost et al. (2005, 2007). The inhibition of the polymerase by the aDNA extracts was quantified (Pruvost & Geigl 2004) and the applied amount of target DNA was adjusted accordingly. The characterization of the PCR products was performed by analysis of the fusion temperature (Tm) using the Lightcycler® and via electrophoresis in a 10% polyacrylamide gel. Multiple PCR amplifications were performed on each independent extract. PCR products were purified using the QIAquick PCR purification kit (Qiagen) and sequenced in both directions by Eurofins MWG GmbH.

Table 2.  Informative sites screened in the 139-bp mtDNA concatenated fragment

Amplicons

nt

A. j. venaticus

A. j. jubatus

A. j. soemmeringii

North Africa population

A. j. raineyi


  • nt: nucleotide position (GenBank Accession no. GI:38349475.1); MT-ND5: mitochondrial NADH-dehydrogenase subunit 5; MT-CR: mitochondrial control region. Diagnostic nucleotide polymorphisms are highlighted in bold. A. j. venaticus (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) refers to the Southwest Asian cheetah population.

MT-ND5

12665–12667

ATC

ATC

ATC

ATC

12679

T/C

C

C

C

C

12698

C

C

A

C

C

12707

A

A

A

G

A

MT-CR1

16448

T

C

C

C

C

16454

T

T

T

T

C/T

16473

T

T

C

T

T

16474

A

G

G

A

G

MT-CR3

16817

T

T

T

C

C/T

16818

A

A

G/A

A

A

16831

A

A

A

A

G/A

16854

A

A

A

A

G/A

DNA sequencing and genotyping

A total of 62 modern and 16 historical cheetah PCR products were sequenced for parts of MT-ND5 [nt 12657–13087; numbering according to GenBank (Accession no. GI:38349475.1)], cytochrome b (MT-CB; nt 15940–16173) and MT-CR without repetitive sequences (Lopezet al. 1996) (nt 16333–16487 and nt 16811–16876), resulting in a 915-bp concatenated mitochondrial fragment. The last 29 bp of the tRNA Leucine (tRNA-Leu; nt 12628–12656) were analysed to ensure the correct amplification of a 3-bp indel mutation at the third and fourth codons of MT-ND5. Sequencing was performed in both directions using a MegaBACE 500 sequencer (GE Healthcare). Genotypes were obtained from 60 modern and seven historical samples at 20 microsatellite loci (FCA005, FCA008, FCA014, FCA026, FCA069, FCA078, FCA085, FCA096, FCA097, FCA105, FCA126, FCA133, FCA171, FCA212, FCA214, FCA220, FCA224, FCA230, FCA247, FCA310) developed in Felis catus (Menotti-Raymond et al. 1999) and tested on cheetahs (Driscoll et al. 2002; Kotze et al. 2008; Marker et al. 2008). Southern African sample analyses were performed at the Centre for Conservation Science of the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria using an ABI 3130 sequencer (Applied Biosystems Inc.). The genotypes of all other samples were determined with a MegaBACE 500 at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. At least three independent genotype results were produced for each locus and each individual. Two defined standard individuals were run in each genotyping series. Electropherograms were evaluated using the softwares GeneMapper v3.1 (Applied Biosystems) and MegaBACE Genetic Profiler v2.2 (GE Healthcare), respectively. Results from the loci FCA078 and FCA096 were removed because of the insufficient quality of the electropherograms despite multiple reiterations.

Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data analysis

Mitochondrial sequences were deposited in GenBank (Accession nos puma, GU984641; cheetah, GU984642GU984735). Sequences were aligned with Codon Code Aligner (version 3.0.2; Codon Code Corporation). A new polymorphism was considered as authentic when it was displayed in at least three independent sequences. The 3-bp deletion (nt 12665–12667) was considered as a single indel event in all subsequent analysis. Mitochondrial haplotype diversity (Hd) and nucleotide diversity (π) (Tajima 1983; Nei 1987) were calculated using Arlequin 3.5 (Excoffier & Lischer 2010). The genetic structure of cheetah populations was analysed using a Bayesian approach implemented in baps 5.2 (Corander & Marttinen 2006; Corander et al. 2008). In this method, the number of populations is treated as unknown parameter and is directly inferred from the data set without defining a prior estimate. For inferring population structure in the mitochondrial (139 bp, n = 94; 915 bp, n = 60) and nuclear (18 loci, n = 60) data sets, we assigned individuals to distinct clusters using the models ‘clustering of linked loci’ (Corander & Tang 2007) and ‘clustering of individuals’, respectively. We specified prior upper bound values for the number of clusters in the data (i.e. 5–10) and performed 10 independent runs for each value. In all independent runs, the assignments of individuals resulted in the same clusters. We performed the admixture analysis based on the results of the mixture clustering of the nuclear data using 500 iterations and a number of 1000 reference individuals per population, each with 10 reiterations. For additional population structure analysis, we used the three-dimensional factorial correspondence analysis (FCA) in genetix 4.05 (Belkiret al. 1999), which portrays the relationship between individuals or populations based on the detection of the best linear combination of allele frequencies. By comparing the clustering solutions of the different methods, we defined the cheetah populations for subsequent population genetic analyses. Average polymorphisms, allele frequencies, expected heterozygosities (HE), pairwise FST, genetic distance (δμ)2 (Goldstein et al. 1995) and proportion of shared alleles between individuals (DPS; Bowcock et al. 1994) were estimated from the microsatellite data set with MSAnalyzer 4.05 (Dieringer & Schlötterer 2003). The stepwise weighted genetic distance (DSW; Shriver et al.1995) was calculated with Populations 1.2.30 (Langella 1999). Statistical significance for mean HE was tested with the Wilcoxon rank-sum test using r version 2.10.1 (R Development Core Team 2009). An analysis of molecular variance (amova) was performed to determine the proportion of genetic variance explained by the differences within and between modern populations as determined by BAPS and FCA.amova calculations were performed in Arlequin 3.5 and significance levels were obtained with 10 000 permutations. Neighbor-joining (NJ) trees were generated based on the proportion of shared alleles between individuals with the software phylip 3.69 (Felsenstein 1989), visualized in FigTree v1.3.1. (Rambaut 2009) and edited in Adobe® Illustrator® CS4 14.0.0 (Adobe System Inc.). We also tested the populations defined by BAPS and FCA for evidence of a decline in their effective population sizes using the program Bottleneck 1.2.0.2 (Piry et al. 1999). We performed the evaluation using the stepwise mutation (SMM) and two-phase (TPM) models of microsatellite evolution. The significance of the tests was assessed using Wilcoxon sign-rank test, which is the most appropriate test when fewer than 20 microsatellite loci are used (Piry et al. 1999). Median-joining networks were constructed with Network 4.5 (Bandelt et al. 1999) with adapted settings following the software instructions. We applied a transition/transversion ratio of 14 (MJN 139 bp) and 10 (MJN 915 bp) estimated with ModelTest (Posada & Crandall 1998) using the best fitting model [Hasegawa–Kishino–Yano (HKY); Hasegawa et al. 1985] according to the Akaike Information Criterion (AIC; Akaike 1974). An exact test of population differentiation (Raymond & Rousset 1995) was performed, and the population pairwise FST values were calculated based on the 139- and 915-bp mitochondrial fragment using the distance method of Tamura & Nei (1993) implemented in Arlequin 3.5.

Divergence time estimations

In all divergence time estimations, we used the most complete sample set (n = 67) for which both mitochondrial (915 bp) and nuclear (18 loci) data could be retrieved. The 3-bp deletion was considered as one evolutionary event. A puma sample (Puma concolor) was sequenced and included as outgroup to build a maximum-likelihood (ML) tree using the HKY model in Tree-Puzzle 5.2 (Schmidt et al.2003). We tested whether the assumption of a molecular clock was valid by performing a likelihood ratio test between the simpler clock model vs. the more complex model without clock. The log-likelihood of the more complex model was not significantly increased with respect to the simpler model (P > 0.05), supporting the assumption of a molecular clock (Felsenstein 1985). Given an estimated cheetah–puma divergence at 4.92 Ma (95% CI = 3.86–6.92) (Johnson et al. 2006), the substitution rate was inferred using the formula dxy = 2μT, where T is the time to the most recent common ancestor, μ is the mutation rate per year and dxy is the genetic distance between species corrected for ancestral polymorphism (Nei 1987). For the computation of dxy, we used the software mega 4.0 (Tamura et al. 2007), which allows for rate heterogeneity among lineages, and the Tamura–Nei substitution model (Tamura & Nei 1993) with Γ = 0.118 (parameter selected by the AIC with correction for small sample size; AICc) as selected by Treefinder (Jobb et al. 2004). The estimated dxy was 0.567 (SD ± 0.175), which translates into a substitution rate of 5.76 × 108 substitutions per site per year (95% CI = 1.57 × 108–1.19 × 107). The divergence times between Asiatic (A. j. venaticus) and Southern African (A. j. jubatus) cheetahs and between Northern-East (A. j. soemmeringii) and Southern African cheetahs were estimated using the equation DA = 2μT in which μ is the average substitution rate per nucleotide, T is the divergence time, and DA is the net number of nucleotide differences between populations (Nei & Li 1979). Divergence times were also calculated following the coalescent method described by Gaggiotti & Excoffier (2000). This method aims to remove the effect of bottlenecks and unequal sizes of the derived populations, which can lead to the overestimation of divergence times from genetic distances. Additionally, these divergence times were estimated using IMa (Hey & Nielsen 2007). This program implements a coalescent-based isolation with migration model that can be applied to genetic data drawn from a pair of closely related populations or species (Nielsen & Wakeley 2001) to infer six demographic parameters [population sizes of the extant as well as the ancestor population, migration rates (m1, m2) per gene in both directions, and time (t) since divergence]. After preliminary runs to optimize settings, four replicate simulations were run. Estimates were generated under the HKY model. Simulations used 10 Markov chains, with 45 chain swap attempts per step, and were run for 20 million steps discarding the first 1 million steps as ‘burn-in’. Genealogies were sampled every 100 steps. Convergence of the simulations was assessed by comparison of their marginal parameter distributions across independent replicate runs. Saved genealogies were used to estimate the joint marginal distribution of t (the estimator of population divergence time) from an evenly spaced sample of 200 000 trees. To convert coalescent times to years before present, we used the substitution rate estimated above and a generation time of 6 years (Marker & O’Brien 1989). ‘Nested models’ (Hey & Nielsen 2007) were also examined and compared to the full six-parameter model using log-likelihood ratio tests. For comparison with previous divergence time estimates between cheetah subspecies based on microsatellite data (Driscoll et al. 2002), we estimated the timing of the splits between Asiatic and African subspecies (A. j. venaticus and A. j. jubatus) and among African cheetahs (A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus) using the (δμ)2 genetic distance and the equation (δμ)2 = 2μG (μ = mutation rate; G = generations) (Goldstein & Pollock 1997). We applied two estimates of mutation rate for microsatellite loci in humans (5.6 × 104 and 2.05 × 103), which were previously used by Driscoll et al. (2002), and an additional estimate for the average microsatellite mutation rate in mammals (2.05 × 104; Rooney et al. 1999) that has been employed in several studies on other felid species (Spong et al. 2000; Anderson et al. 2004; Ruiz-Garcia et al. 2006). Furthermore, to estimate the divergence times among African populations and between Asiatic and African cheetahs, we used the stepwise-weighted genetic distance (DSW; Shriver et al. 1995) and the equation from Calabrese et al. (2001): DSW = √(2/π) × √(2βτ + 4βNe) 4βNe/√(8βNe + 1), where π is a constant; β, mutation rate; τ, time in generations; Ne, effective population size calculated under the SMM and inferred from the expected heterozygosity (Ohta & Kimura 1973).

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Results

Genetic variation and population structure analysis

We screened 94 Asiatic and African cheetahs by combining data from 62 modern, 30 historical and 2 zooarchaeological specimens (Table 1). Three mtDNA regions (MT-ND5, MT-CB, MT-CR; partial sequences), corresponding to a total of 915 bp were sequenced from all modern and 16 well-preserved historical specimens. We identified 29 polymorphic sites and one 3-bp deletion resulting in 18 haplotypes (Hd = 0.909, SD = 0.013; π = 0.00659, SD = 0.00351). The highest numbers of polymorphic sites (n = 7) were detected within cheetahs originating from Southern Africa and East Africa, respectively, whereas Northern-East African and Asiatic cheetahs showed lower amounts of mitochondrial polymorphism (n = 3 and n = 2, respectively). A similar pattern was observed for haplotype (Hd) and nucleotide diversities (π) (Table 3). For the palaeogenetic analyses, we selected three diagnostic regions (139 bp) containing 14 informative sites (Table 2). These sites faithfully recovered the partitioning into haplogroups observed in the 915-bp data set. We successfully amplified these regions in mediaeval A. jubatus specimens from two archaeological sites in Iran, Bastam (metatarsal bone) and Tahkt-e Suleyman (vertebra, mandible). These samples represent the few cheetah bones hitherto discovered in archaeological excavations in Southwest Asia. In addition, we amplified these diagnostic regions in 14 highly degraded DNA samples originating from countries where cheetahs are now extinct (e.g. India) or close to extinction. All replicates of the sequences retrieved from the independent extracts were identical.

Table 3.  Genetic variation in cheetahs inferred from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA (μsat) data

Population

mtDNA (915 bp)

No. cheetahs (mtDNA/μsat*)

No. haplotypes

No. variable sites

Haplotype diversity (SE)

π (SE)


  • *Nuclear genetic variation was assessed only among the extant populations.

Total

78/60

18

29 + 1 indel

0.909 (0.013)

0.00659 (0.00352)

S-West Asia

11/8

3

2

0.345 (0.172)

0.00040 (0.00047)

N-East Africa

26/25

3

3

0.551 (0.048)

0.00073 (0.00064)

Southern Africa

29/27

8

7

0.828 (0.046)

0.00197 (0.00130)

East Africa

11/0

3

7

0.636 (0.090)

0.00381 (0.00237)

North Africa

1/0

1

0

μsat (18 loci)

% Polymorphic loci

Total no. alleles

Average no. allele/locus (SE)

% Private alleles

HE

100

145

8.06 (1.39)

31.72

0.766

88.9

42

2.33 (1.03)

7.14

0.397

100

107

5.94 (1.70)

14.95

0.674

100

111

6.17 (1.38)

24.32

0.698

We used haplotype network analysis and BAPS to infer the relationships between the different mtDNA haplotypes. In both median-joining networks (Fig. 1b: 139 bp and Fig. 1c: 915 bp), we observed a star-shaped radiation stemming from a Southern African haplogroup corresponding to the subspecies A. j. jubatus. The East African cheetahs, described as A. j. raineyi, emerged in two different branches from the central haplotype. Although none of the East African cheetahs shared a common haplotype with the Southern African individuals, one haplotype comprising Tanzanian and Kenyan cheetahs (defined by nt 16817; Fig. 1b) clustered together with Southern African cheetahs in the BAPS analysis [posterior probability (PP) = 1; Fig. 2a]. Another sub-Saharan cheetah haplogroup was defined (Fig 2a) corresponding to the Northern-East African subspecies A. j. soemmeringii. We observed a monophyletic clustering for this haplogroup in the ML tree (915 bp) with a bootstrap support of 99% (1000 iterations; Fig. S1). Two more haplogroups were recovered (Fig. 1b) in samples from different parts of a range (North Africa and Southwest Asia) that had previously been considered to harbour the same subspeciesA. j. venaticus (Krausman & Morales 2005; Belbachir 2007). The partitioning of these cheetahs into two distinct clusters was also confirmed by BAPS (Fig. 2a). One of these clusters encompassed animals from Western Sahara, Algeria, Libya and western Egypt (Libyan Desert;Osborn & Helmy 1980). The other cluster contained three Asiatic haplotypes represented by the current, historic and mediaeval Iranian cheetah samples as well as by museum specimens from India, Oman, Iraq and Jordan (Fig. 1b). In addition, one sample collected by Theodor von Heuglin in eastern Egypt (Table 1) clustered with this Asiatic haplogroup (Figs 1b and 2a). An exact test of population differentiation based on haplotype frequencies resulted in significant differences (P < href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x/full#f2">Fig. 2a). The population pairwise genetic distances (FST) among these clusters ranged from 0.724 to 0.930 (within Africa) and 0.818–0.958 (Southwest Asia vs. African populations; Table 4). Comparing the FST values among the African clusters with those calculated between Asiatic and African populations, no significant differences were detected (P = 0.246; Wilcoxon rank-sum test corrected for multiple testing).

Figure 2. Bayesian analysis of population structure (BAPS) of African and Asiatic cheetahs. (a) Clustering based on a 139-bp mitochondrial concatenated fragment of 94 cheetahs. Individuals (represented by single bars) are assigned to five distinct clusters (posterior probability, PP = 1). (b) Clustering based on a 915-bp mitochondrial fragment and 18 microsatellite loci using 60 modern cheetahs. Extant cheetahs are assigned to three (PP = 0.999) and five (admixture analysis; PP = 0.999) clusters using mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA (nDNA), respectively. SW-ASIA, Southwest Asia; N-AFRICA, North Africa; EGY, Egypt; NE-AFRICA, Northern-East Africa; E-AFRICA, East Africa; S-AFRICA, Southern Africa.

MEC_4986_f2_thumb.gif

Table 4.  Population pairwise distances

S-West Asia

N-East Africa

Southern Africa

East Africa

North Africa


  • Population pairwise distances based on the concatenated mitochondrial sequence (below the diagonal: FST; 139 bp;n = 94/915 bp; n = 78) and 18 polymorphic microsatellite loci (above the diagonal: FST; n = 60). All FSTP-values are significant (P <>

S-West Asia

0.295

0.305

na

na

N-East Africa

0.930/0.947

0.170

na

na

Southern Africa

0.818/0.689

0.772/0.806

na

na

East Africa

0.951/0.951

0.901/0.939

0.724/0.613

na

North Africa

0.958/na

0.930/na

0.796/na

0.972/na

In addition to the mitochondrial sequences, we analysed 18 polymorphic microsatellite loci. Using solely modern samples, we assessed the genetic variation among the extant populations according to the clustering solutions with BAPS [mtDNA 915 bp, PP = 1; nuclear DNA (nDNA), PP = 1; Fig. 2b]. The three clusters obtained with mtDNA reflected the geographical distributions of the described subspeciesA. j. jubatus, A. j. soemmerringii and A. j. venaticus. At the nuclear level we could define two additional clusters, which represent substructuring within the Southern and Northern-East African subspecies, respectively. We obtained similar clustering results when we visualized the phylogenetic relationship of the individual genotypes in a three-dimensional FCA (Fig. 3). The results from the admixture analysis based on 500 simulations from posterior allele frequencies revealed no admixture (all P-values = 1; Fig. 2b) and therefore no evidence of past or present gene flow. The Iranian cheetahs (HE = 0.397) were significantly less variable than the Northern-East (HE = 0.674) and Southern African (HE = 0.698) populations (P < href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x/full#t5">Table 5). The population pairwise FST/RST values showed significant differentiation between the three populations (P < href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x/full#t4">Tables 4 and S3) and the amova results indicated that 22.7% of the total variation occurred among the different populations/subspecies. In a NJ tree (Fig. 4a), the bootstrap support for the branch assembling all modern Asiatic cheetahs was 100% (100 iterations). As all specimen of the East African subspecies A. j. raineyi were collected from museum or non-invasively (Table 1), their DNA qualities were not sufficient to retrieve consistent and reliable information over all loci. However, we could obtain nuclear data for seven historical samples (#9, 10, 11, 19, 48, 89, 90; Table 1). When these samples were added to the NJ tree analysis (Fig. 4b) the branch leading to all Southwest Asian samples, which cluster separately from the African individuals (including Libya), had a bootstrap support of 72%.

Figure 3. Three-dimensional factorial correspondence analyses (FCA) of African and Asiatic cheetahs based on 18 microsatellite loci. (a) The population structuring of 60 individuals in three clusters corresponding to their geographical origin is shown. The axes 1–4 explain 27.4% of the variation among the populations. (b, c) FCA graphs considering independently the Southern (n = 27) and Northern-East African (n = 25) cheetah populations. The subclustering within each population reflects the clusters defined with BAPS (Fig. 2b).

MEC_4986_f3_thumb.gif

Table 5.  Significance of tests for heterozygosity excess assessed using a Wilcoxon sign-rank test under the SMM and TPM model implemented in Bottleneck 1.2.0.2

P-value (SMM)

P-value (TPM)

S-West Asia

0.0133

0.0107

N-East Africa

0.8769

0.1733

Southern Africa

0.9700

0.2475

Figure 4. Neighbor-joining (NJ) trees displaying African and Asiatic cheetahs in independent branches. The NJ trees are based on the proportion of shared alleles (DPS) between individuals using 18 microsatellite loci amplified (a) in 60 modern (b) plus additional seven historical cheetah samples. Modern (solid lines) and historical (dashed lines) samples are colour-coded according their geographical origin. Only bootstrap values (100 reiterations) above 70% are displayed.

MEC_4986_f4_thumb.gif

Estimation of divergence time

We estimated the divergence time, first between Asiatic and Southern African cheetahs, which correspond to the central haplogroup in the mtDNA network, and within Africa, between the best-sampled subspecies A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus. Based on the mitochondrial 915-bp fragment, the DA (4.412) between A. j. venaticus and A. j. jubatus was translated into a population split at 41 900 ya (95% CI = 20 300–153 800). Following Gaggiotti & Excoffier (2000), the divergence between these two populations was estimated at 32 170 ya (95% CI = 15 570–118 020). The divergence time between the African subspecies A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus was calculated at 66 500 ya (95% CI = 32 200–244 000) and 55 085 ya (95% CI = 26 660–202 100) using DA (6.996) and the method of Gaggiotti & Excoffier (2000), respectively. The demographic modelling with IMa suggested a split between A. j. venaticus and A. j. jubatus at 44 403 ya (90% HPD = 27 420–379 222) and between A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus at 72 296 ya (90% HPD = 43 928–379 317). The upper bound for the credibility interval is not informative, as it critically depends on the assumed prior for the maximum value of t when the curve slowly decreases to zero after the mode of t. The log-likelihood ratio tests did not reject models with m1 = m2 = 0, which are appropriate for studying the divergence of populations under allopatry (Won et al. 2003). Hence, by setting migration rates to zero, we also applied a conventional isolation model (Wakeley & Hey 1997). The splits A. j. venaticus/A. j. jubatus and A. j. jubatus/A. j. soemmeringii were then estimated at 42 120 ya (90% HPD = 16 295–83 677) and 66 698 ya (90% HPD = 24 067–117 615), respectively.

Using the microsatellite genetic distance (δμ)2 and two human microsatellite mutation rates (2.05 × 103 and 5.6 × 104) employed byDriscoll et al. (2002), we estimated the split between A. j. venaticus and A. j. jubatus at 6700 and 24 700 ya, respectively. Using an average mammalian microsatellite mutation rate (2.05 × 104; Rooney et al. 1999), we estimated this divergence at 67 400 ya. The divergence time between A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus, using the fastest (human) microsatellite mutation rate, was 3200 ya but rose to 32 400 ya when applying the average mammalian mutation rate. To compare these estimates with another distance method, we used the stepwise-weighted genetic distance DSW, which is based on the allele frequency differences among populations (Shriver et al. 1995). Applying again the two human microsatellite mutation rates and the average mammalian mutation rate, and following Calabrese et al. (2001), we calculated the divergence time between Iranian and Southern African cheetahs at 4700, 17 300 and 47 200 ya, respectively. The fastest mutation rate translated into a divergence time estimate among the African subspecies A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus of 1600 ya whereas it reached the value of 15 600 ya using the average mammalian mutation rate.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Discussion

We investigated the genetic diversity and divergence within and between African and Asiatic cheetahs based on mtDNA and microsatellite data of 94 samples including two mediaeval cheetah bones (9th–10th century ce). In general, our data show that there is a higher genetic variation in the current global cheetah population than previously described (O’Brien et al. 1983; Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1993;O’Brien & Johnson 2005). This is due mainly to the fact that we included populations that had never been investigated before. The overall amount of mtDNA nucleotide diversity (π) of 0.66% in cheetahs was higher than observed in tigers (0.18%; Luo et al. 2004) and pumas (0.32%; Culver et al. 2000), similar to jaguars (0.77%; Eizirik et al. 2001), and lower than in leopards (1.21%; Uphyrkina et al. 2001). The total nuclear (microsatellite) diversity (HE = 0.766) is comparable with that of other outbred felid species (Culver et al. 2000; Eizirik et al.2001; Uphyrkina et al. 2001; Driscoll et al. 2002). This might be explained by our use of highly polymorphic markers (all loci were polymorphic), therefore we also compared a set of 15 nuclear microsatellite loci applied in surveys of cheetahs (this study and Driscoll et al.2002), domestic cats, pumas and lions (supplemental table 3 in Driscoll et al. 2002), and we found similar genetic diversities (HE values ranging from 0.681 to 0.777; Table S2) in the four felid species. The HE levels in the investigated Southern and Northern-East African cheetah populations (Table 3) were similar to Namibian cheetahs (0.640–0.708) and higher than in the Serengeti population (0.599) (Marker et al. 2008). The lower HE (0.397) observed in the Iranian cheetahs might be the consequence of ancestral population divergence or a recent bottleneck, as we found significant evidence for a recent effective population size reduction in this population (Table 5).

Within the African samples, we recovered the previously described relationship between the sub-Saharan cheetah subspecies A. j. raineyiand A. j. jubatus (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1995; Driscoll et al. 2002). The clustering of some Tanzanian and Kenyan animals together with Southern African cheetahs in the mtDNA BAPS analysis (Fig. 2a) suggests a population in East Africa that might be derived from relatively recent re-colonization events as observed in lions (Antunes et al. 2008). This should be investigated combining mtDNA and nDNA data obtained from additional samples of East African cheetahs. At the nuclear level, we observed substructuring in the Northern-East African and Southern African subspecies (Figs 2b and 3) into two subpopulations, which did not correlate with the geographical origin of the individuals. Weak population structure within the South African cheetahs (Kotze et al. 2008) and a panmictic Namibian population (Marker et al. 2008) have been reported previously. Remarkably, the Northern-East African cheetahs were highly differentiated (nuclearFST = 0.170) from the Southern African individuals and clustered independently (Figs 1 and 2) and monophyletic (Fig. S1). Between the African and Asiatic subspecies, we also discovered great differentiation at both nuclear and mitochondrial levels (Table 4). Similar levels of population/subspecies differentiation were described in leopards (Uphyrkina et al. 2001), pumas (Culver et al. 2000) and lions (Antuneset al. 2008). We could not detect significantly higher differentiation (mitochondrial FST) between African and Asiatic cheetahs than among the African subspecies. This indicates deep phylogeographic structure not only between African and Asiatic cheetahs but also among the African cheetah populations.

It is well documented that imports of tamed hunting cheetahs from Northern-East (Pocock 1939) and East Africa (Divyabhanusinh 2007) into India and the Arabian Peninsula were a regular occurrence during the European colonial era. Given the possibility of interbreeding with African escapees, Asiatic cheetahs were not expected to form a genetically distinct unit. However, hunting cheetahs were highly valued, and there are no known records of individuals (accidentally or intentionally) released into the wild (Divyabhanusinh 2007). Moreover, the species is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. Except for a single litter born in Akbar’s collection of many thousands of cheetahs the first documented captive birth was at the Philadelphia Zoo in 1956 (Marker & O’Brien 1989; Divyabhanusinh 2007). Therefore, the possibility of a captive, hybrid Asiatic-African population as a source of escapees or releases is very low. In our study, we found no evidence of recent gene flow between these populations (Fig. 2b). In all analyses, including the ones with mediaeval Iranian samples, the Asiatic cheetahs constituted a unique cluster (Figs 1–4) suggesting an apparent monophyly of the Asiatic lineage (Fig. S1). Historical museum specimens from Iran, Iraq and India (#12, 15, 16; Table 1) that could not be distinguished by morphological characteristics from African specimens (Divyabhanusinh 2007) were genetically confirmed as Asiatic individuals.

The clustering results of the Asiatic cheetahs were of particular interest because this population has been proposed to form a single subspecies, A. j. venaticus, with North African cheetahs (Ellerman & Morrison-Scott 1951; Krausman & Morales 2005). Notably, Egypt harboured two genetically distinct populations in the past, as we observed clustering of the two Egyptian samples in different haplogroups (Figs 1b and 2a). One now extinct population in eastern Egypt (Northern Sinai; Saleh et al. 2001; Hoath 2003) could be represented by the historical sample collected by Theodor von Heuglin in the early 1850s, which clustered with samples from Southwest Asian countries (Jordan, Iran, Iraq and Oman). The other specimen collected in western Egypt (Libyan Desert; Osborn & Helmy 1980) shared the same haplotype with cheetahs from North Africa and represented a population that might still exist today in the Libyan Desert (Saleh et al. 2001;Hoath 2003). We could not detect hybridization of Asiatic and African cheetahs in our study (Fig. 2a). This suggests that palaeoclimatic constraints, ecological barriers and/or geographical features prevented past gene flow between the two putative populations of this part of Africa. Genetic separation is also supported by the nuclear NJ tree, as the branch leading to the Jordanian (and all Asiatic) samples, which cluster separately from the Libyan (and all other African) individuals, had a bootstrap support of 72% (Fig. 4b). The classification and taxonomy of North African cheetahs are still debated (Krausman & Morales 2005; Belbachir 2007). This population might be genetically contiguous with cheetahs from West Africa (Senegal to Niger), thus it is critical to further investigate current Egyptian and West African populations as suggested by Belbachir (2007). In the light of our results, the previous proposal of a single subspecies, A. j. venaticus, encompassing the Iranian cheetah and its North African congeners (Ellerman & Morrison-Scott 1951; Krausman & Morales 2005) is not supported. In summary, our data based on palaeogenetic analyses demonstrate that the isolation between Asiatic and African cheetahs has existed for millennia.

To date, divergence time between cheetahs has only been estimated among the (closely related; Figs 1 and 2) African subspeciesA. j. jubatus and A. j. raineyi. Using mtDNA (mtRFLP) and microsatellite distance data [(δμ)2], the divergence time had been estimated at 28 000–36 000 ya (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1993) and 4253 ya (Driscoll et al. 2002), respectively. The latter was inferred with mutation rates estimated from human microsatellite data (Driscoll et al. 2002). In general, time estimations based on microsatellite distance data can be challenging, particularly if no taxon-specific microsatellite evolution rates are available, as it is the case in felids. Also, it is important to take into account potential homoplasy of microsatellites (Paetkau et al. 1997; Zhivotovsky 2001; Estoup et al. 2002) in the estimation of divergence time between ancient isolates, as some cheetah subspecies are suggested to be by our mtDNA divergence time estimates. In this study, we included two newly investigated subspecies (A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. venaticus) and an average mammalian microsatellite mutation rate previously applied in other felid species (Spong et al. 2000; Anderson et al. 2004; Ruiz-Garcia et al. 2006) to calculate the divergence times within and between African and Asiatic cheetahs. Depending on the genetic marker (mtDNA or nDNA), the nuclear genetic distance [(δμ)2 or DSW] and the choice of the microsatellite mutation rate (human or average mammalian), we retrieved results differing by more than one order of magnitude. Large differences between mitochondrial and nuclear time estimates using human microsatellite rates have been previously observed in wild felids (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1993; Antunes et al. 2008). This could be explained by the fact that the genetic distances (δμ)2 and DSW are considered to underestimate divergence (Paetkau et al. 1997;Calabrese et al. 2001; Zhivotovsky 2001). In our data, we found higher genetic differentiation at microsatellite loci, as measured by FSTvalues and genetic distances [(δμ)2 or DSW], between A. j. venaticus and A. j. jubatus than between A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus. However, this might be due to a possible stochastic increase in divergence associated with a recent population bottleneck (Chakraborty & Nei 1977; Hedrick 1999), which signature we could apparently detect in our data in A. j. venaticus. Choosing the average mammalian mutation rate and considering the mtDNA estimate, we can place the split between Asiatic and African cheetahs at 32 000–67 000 ya and within Africa, between A. j. soemmeringii and A. j. jubatus, at 16 000–72 000 ya. However, considering the substantial variation in divergence time estimates we acknowledge that decisions for the conservation of this endangered species should not be based on time estimates alone.

Implications for conservation

In this study, we re-visited the currently recognized cheetah subspecies (Krausman & Morales 2005; Durant et al. 2008) in light of our results retrieved from geographically defined populations. We verified the veracity of A. j. venaticus and A. j. soemmeringii based on recognizable phylogenetic partitioning (mitochondrial monophyly and significant divergence at nuclear loci; Moritz 1994) and absence of gene flow (O’Brien & Mayr 1991). Our study suggests a close relationship of A. j. raineyi with A. j. jubatus; however, minisatellite (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1993) and microsatellite variation (Driscoll et al. 2002) support the separation of these two sub-Saharan subspecies. We also clarified the western range limit of the critically endangered A. j. venaticus observing a historical range in contrast to recent accounts, which included North Africa (Krausman & Morales 2005).

The identification of a subspecies recognizes biological distinctiveness and should be sufficient as first-order systematic hypothesis when the aim of conservation is to preserve biological diversity (Green 2005). As large-scale genomic information becomes available also for nonmodel species, adaptive genetic markers might be used to estimate diversification and adaptive genetic variation in subspecies/populations, in combination with supposedly neutrally evolving loci. It might also help to understand how populations can survive despite a low neutral genetic variation (Fraser & Bernatchez 2001; Gebremedhin et al. 2009).

Although there is little evidence that inbreeding depression affects African cheetahs (Caro & Laurenson 1994) and current threats to the species are primarily anthropogenic (Nowell & Jackson 1996; Hunter et al. 2007; CACP 2008; Marker et al. 2008), the lower genetic diversity in the Iranian population is cause for concern in light of their critically low numbers (Hunter et al. 2007; Durant et al. 2008). Any further decline in Iranian cheetah numbers would require increasingly extreme conservation measures, including the consideration of supplemental introductions from Africa, similar to that required for the demographic rescue of Florida panthers (Creel 2006; Pimm et al.2006; Johnson et al. 2010). However, contrary to the close geographic and genetic distances described in Texas and Florida panthers (Johnson et al. 2010), we did not detect historical gene flow between African and Asiatic cheetahs (Fig. 2c). In addition to the formidable logistical and financial obstacles arguing against introductions, our results emphasize the importance of preserving the genetic distinctiveness of the critically endangered Iranian cheetahs. That will also entail a stronger understanding of possible substructuring in the Iranian population. At least 10 cheetahs moving between known population centres have been killed on roads since 2004 including most recently a female with two cubs in August 2010 (A. Jourabchian, unpublished data). Ongoing, rapid infrastructural development around some cheetah subpopulations in Iran will increase the likelihood of demographic and genetic fragmentation. These processes are currently poorly understood but are the focus of an ongoing multinational research effort led by Iranian biologists which has deployed GPS collars on cheetahs and is undertaking further analysis of genetic differences between cheetah subpopulations in Iran (Hunter et al. 2007). Most significantly, the government of Iran recently renewed its commitment to a major conservation effort of the species (Breitenmoser et al.2010).

Our results have particular implications for proposed reintroductions in the cheetah’s former range in Asia, especially in India (Ranjitsinh & Jhala 2010). Such endeavours face massive challenges of habitat and prey availability but assuming these are overcome, the question of the founder’s origin remains. The genetic distinctiveness of Asiatic cheetahs would argue that reintroduction efforts should attempt to use cheetahs from Iran. However, this population is critically endangered and cannot sustain removals. Both Southern and Northern-East African cheetahs would have sufficient genetic variability to be considered as independent source populations. Thus, the choice of the most promising source population should be based on ecological, behavioural and viability criteria with minimum taxonomic swamping. In any case, the current Iranian cheetahs will probably remain the only representatives of the subspecies A. j. venaticus in Asia for the foreseeable future.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Conclusion

Current conservation and management strategies are usually based on the recognition of the subspecies taxonomy. In the case of the cheetah this has rarely been considered, as cheetahs were found to have little genetic variation (Menotti-Raymond & O’Brien 1995; O’Brien & Johnson 2005). Our data suggest this viewpoint to be valid for the two sub-Saharan subspecies A. j. jubatus and A. j. raineyi, which could not be entirely separated in the mitochondrial population structure analysis. However, we show that Northern-East African, Southern African and Asiatic cheetahs are long-term geographic isolates with independent evolutionary histories. Moreover, we demonstrate that the critically endangered Iranian cheetahs are an autochthonous, monophyletic population and the last representatives of the Asiatic cheetah. Our data also support the view of an independent subspecies status for the cheetahs in North Africa. This population may be genetically contiguous with those from West Africa (Senegal–Niger), historically classified as A. j. hecki, but additional sampling is required to resolve this issue (Belbachir 2007). Also, it will be important to survey adaptive genetic variation in the cheetah subspecies to better understand evolutionary differentiation caused by ecological adaptation. Based on our results, we conclude that unique diversity remains in the cheetahs of Africa and Asia and that conservation of these populations, especially of the critically low numbering Iranian individuals, should rank high among felid conservation priorities.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Acknowledgements

We thank the curators of the Natural History Museums of London, Vienna, Berlin, Stuttgart and Senckenberg-Frankfurt, the Alexander Koenig Research Museum, the Harrison Institute, the Royal Museum of Scotland and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren). We appreciate the support from the veterinarians and keepers of DECAN Rescue Centre Djibouti, Vienna Zoo, Salzburg Zoo, La Palmyre Zoo and the Zoological Garden of Montpellier. We are most grateful to M. Kamyab (UNDP-Tehran), M. Müller (Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics-vetmeduni Vienna), F. Claro and N. Vidal (MNHN-Paris), J. Corander for comments on BAPS, A. McGregor for language corrections, and Y. Moodley for comments on the manuscript. P.C. and P.B. acknowledge support from the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF; P1084-B17 to P.B.) and C.F. from the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT-MCTES; contract C2007-UL-342-CBA1). The work was supported by the Felidae Conservation Fund, Panthera and UNDP-GEF (fieldwork in Iran), the French National Research Centre (palaeogenetic analysis at IJM, Paris) and the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

References

  • Akaike H (1974) A new look at the statistical model identification. IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, 19, 716–723.
  • Allendorf FW, Luikart G (2007) Conservation and the Genetics of Populations. Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, 642 pp.
  • Allsen TT (2006) Natural history and cultural history—the circulation of hunting leopards in Eurasia, seventh-seventeenth centuries. In:Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World (ed. MairVT), 310 pp. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.
  • Anderson CR, Lindzey FG, McDonald DB (2004) Genetic structure of cougar populations across the Wyoming basin: metapopulation or megapopulation. Journal of Mammalogy, 85, 1207–1214.
  • Antunes A, Troyer JL, Roelke ME et al. (2008) The evolutionary dynamics of the lion Panthera leo revealed by host and viral population genomics. PLoS Genetics, 4, e1000251.
  • Bandelt H, Forster P, Rohl A (1999) Median-joining networks for inferring intraspecific phylogenies. Molecular Biology and Evolution,16, 37–48.
  • Belbachir F (2007) Les grands questions relative a la conservation des grands felins d’Algerie: cas du guepard et du leopard. In:Compte-rendu de la deuxième réunion de l’observatoire du guépard en régions d’Afrique du nord—Tamanrasset (ed. OGRAN), 42 pp. Société Zoologique de Paris, Paris.
  • Belkir K, Borsa P, Goudet J, Chikhi L, Bonhomme F (1999) Genetix, logiciel sous Windows TM pour la ge′ne′tique des populations. Laboratoire Genome et Populations, CNRS UPR 9060, Universite de Montpellier II, Montpellier, France.
  • Boessneck J, Krauß R (1973) Die Tierwelt um Bas-tam/Nordwest-Azerbaidjan. Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran NF, 6, 113–133.
  • Bowcock AM, Ruiz-Linares A, Tomfohrde J, Minch E, Kidd JR, Cavalli-Sforza LL (1994) High resolution human evolutionary trees with polymorphic microsatellites. Nature, 368, 455–457.
  • Brehm AE (1879) Brehms Thierleben. Allgemeine Kunde des Thierreichs. Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, Leipzig.
  • Breitenmoser U, Breitenmoser-Würsten C, von Arx M (2010) Workshop on the conservation of the Asiatic cheetah. Cat News, 52, 17.
  • Burger P, Steinborn R, Walzer C, Petit T, Mueller M, Schwarzenberger F (2004) Analysis of the mitochondrial genome of cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) with neurodegenerative disease. Gene, 338, 111–119.
  • Busby GBJ, Gottelli D, Wacher T et al. (2009) Genetic analysis of scat reveals leopard Panthera pardus and cheetah Acinonyx jubatusin southern Algeria. Oryx, 43, 412–415.
  • CACP (2008) Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah, Its Natural Habitats and Associated Biota in the I.R. of Iran. Project Number IRA/00/G35. Final Report. CACP, Tehran, Iran, 44 pp.
  • Calabrese PP, Durrett RT, Aquadro CF (2001) Dynamics of microsatellite divergence under stepwise mutation and proportional slippage/point mutation models. Genetics, 159, 839–852.
  • Caro T, Laurenson M (1994) Ecological and genetic factors in conservation: a cautionary tale. Science, 263, 485–486.
  • Chakraborty R, Nei M (1977) Bottleneck effects on average heterozygosity and genetic distance with the stepwise mutation model.Evolution, 31, 347–356.
  • Corander J, Marttinen P (2006) Bayesian identification of admixture events using multilocus molecular markers. Molecular Ecology,15, 2833–2843.
    Direct Link:
  • Corander J, Tang J (2007) Bayesian analysis of population structure based on linked molecular information. Mathematical Biosciences, 205, 19–31.
  • Corander J, Marttinen P, Siren J, Tang J (2008) Enhanced Bayesian modelling in BAPS software for learning genetic structures of populations. BMC Bioinformatics, 9, 539.
  • Creel S (2006) Recovery of the Florida panther—genetic rescue, demographic rescue, or both? Animal Conservation, 9, 125–126.
    Direct Link:
  • Culver M, Johnson WE, Pecon-Slattery J, O’Brien SJ (2000) Genomic ancestry of the American puma (Puma concolor). Journal of Heredity, 91, 186–197.
  • Dieringer D, Schlötterer C (2003) Microsatellite analyser (MSA): a platform independent analysis tool for large microsatellite data sets.Molecular Ecology Notes, 3, 167–169.
    Direct Link:
  • Divyabhanusinh C (2007) The End of a Trail, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 307 pp.
  • Driscoll CA, Menotti-Raymond MA, Nelson G, Goldstein D, O’Brien SJ (2002) Genomic microsatellites as evolutionary chronometers: a test in wild cats. Genome Research, 12, 414–423.
  • Durant S, Marker L, Purchase N et al. (2008) In: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Acinonyx jubatus. Version 2010.1. Available from http://www.iucnredlist.org (accessed 22 March 2010).
  • Eizirik E, Kim JH, Menotti-Raymond M, Crawshaw PG Jr, O’Brien SJ, Johnson WE (2001) Phylogeography, population history and conservation genetics of jaguars (Panthera onca, Mammalia, Felidae). Molecular Ecology, 10, 65–79.
    Direct Link:
  • Ellerman J, Morrison-Scott T (1951) Checklist of Paleartic and Indian Mammals, 1758–1946, 1st edn. British Museum of Natural History, London, 810 pp.
  • Estoup A, Jarne P, Cornuet JM (2002) Homoplasy and mutation model at microsatellite loci and their consequences for population genetics analysis. Molecular Ecology, 11, 1591–1604.
    Direct Link:
  • Excoffier L, Lischer H (2010) Arlequin suite ver 3.5: a new series of programs to perform population genetics analyses under Linux and Windows. Molecular Ecology Resources, 10, 564–567.
    Direct Link:
  • Farhadinia M (2004) The last stronghold: cheetah in Iran. Cat News, 40, 11–14.
  • Felsenstein J (1985) Confidence-limits on phylogenies with a molecular clock. Systematic Zoology, 34, 152–161.
  • Felsenstein J (1989) PHYLIP-phylogeny inference package (version 3.2). Cladistics, 5, 164–166.
  • Frankham R, Ballou JD, Briscoe DA (2009) Introduction to Conservation Genetics, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 704 pp.
  • Fraser D, Bernatchez L (2001) Adaptive evolutionary conservation: towards a unified concept for defining conservation units.Molecular Ecology, 10, 2741–2752.
  • Freeman A, Machugh D, Mckeown S, Walzer C, Mcconnell D, Bradley DG (2001) Sequence variation in the mitochondrial DNA control region of wild African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus). Heredity, 86, 355–362.
    Direct Link:
  • Gaggiotti O, Excoffier L (2000) A simple method of removing the effect of a bottleneck and unequal population sizes on pairwise genetic distances. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 267, 81–87.
  • Gebremedhin B, Ficetola GF, Naderi S et al. (2009) Frontiers in identifying conservation units: from neutral markers to adaptive genetic variation. Animal Conservation, 12, 107–109.
    Direct Link:
  • Goldstein DB, Pollock DD (1997) Launching microsatellites: a review of mutation processes and methods of phylogenetic interference. Journal of Heredity, 88, 335–342.
  • Goldstein DB, Linares AR, Cavalli-Sforza LL, Feldman MW (1995) An evaluation of genetic distances for use with microsatellite loci.Genetics, 139, 463–471.
  • Green DM (2005) Designatable units for status assessment of endangered species. Conservation Biology, 19, 1813–1820.
    Direct Link:
  • Hasegawa M, Kishino H, Yano T-a (1985) Dating of the human-ape splitting by molecular clock of mitochondrial DNA. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 22, 160–174.
  • Hedrick PW (1999) Perspective: highly variable loci and their interpretation in evolution and conservation. Evolution, 53, 313–318.
  • Hey J, Nielsen R (2007) Integration within the Felsenstein equation for improved Markov chain Monte Carlo methods in population genetics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 104, 2785–2790.
  • Hoath R, ed. (2003) Cheetah. In: A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt, pp. 104–105. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  • Hunter L, Hamman D (2003) Cheetah. Struik-New Holland, Cape Town, 144 pp.
  • Hunter L, Jowkar H, Ziai H et al. (2007) Conserving the Asiatic Cheetah in Iran: launching the First Radio-Telemetry Study. Cat News,46, 8–11.
  • Jobb G, von Haeseler A, Strimmer K (2004) Treefinder: a powerful graphical analysis environment for molecular phylogenetics. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 4, 18.
  • Johnson WE, Godoy J, Palomares F et al. (2004) Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analysis of Iberian lynx populations. Journal of Heredity, 95, 19–28.
  • Johnson WE, Eizirik E, Pecon-Slattery J et al. (2006) The Late Miocene radiation of modern Felidae: a genetic assessment. Science,311, 73–77.
  • Johnson WE, Onorato DP, Roelke ME et al. (2010) Genetic restoration of the Florida panther. Science, 329, 1641–1645.
  • Kolb R (1972) Die Tierknochenfunde vom Takht-i Suleiman in der iranischen Provinz Aserbeidschan (Fundmaterial der Grabung 1969). Doctorate Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich.
  • Kotze A, Ehlers K, Cilliers D, Grobler J (2008) The power of resolution of microsatellite markers and assignment tests to determine the geographic origin of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in Southern Africa. Mammalian Biology, 73, 457–462.
  • Krausman P, Morales S (2005) Acinonyx jubatus. Mammalian Species, 771, 1–6.
  • Krauß R (1975) Tierknochenfunde aus Bastam in Nordwest-Azerbaidjan/Iran. Doctorate Thesis, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich.
  • Langella M (1999) Populations 1.2.30: Population genetic software (individuals or population distances, phylogenetic trees). Available from http://bioinformatics.org/~tryphon/populations/ (accessed 15 July 2010).
  • Laurenson M (1994) High juvenile mortality in cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) and its consequences for maternal care. Journal of Zoology (London), 234, 387–408.
    Direct Link:
  • Lopez J, Cevario S, O’Brien SJ (1996) Complete nucleotide sequence of the domestic cat (Felis catus) mitochondrial genome and a transposed mtDNA tandem repeat (Numt) in the nuclear genome. Genomics, 33, 229–246.
  • Luo SJ, Kim JH, Johnson WE et al. (2004) Phylogeography and genetic ancestry of tigers (Panthera tigris). PLoS Biology, 2,2275–2293.
  • Manati AR, Nogge G (2008) Cheetahs in Afghanistan. Cat News, 49, 18.
  • Marker L (2009) International Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Studbook 2007. Cheetah Conservation Fund, Otjiwarongo, Namibia.
  • Marker L, O’Brien SJ (1989) Captive breeding of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in north-American zoos (1871–1986). Zoo Biology, 8,3–16.
    Direct Link:
  • Marker L, Wilkerson A, Sarno R et al. (2008) Molecular genetic insights on cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) ecology and conservation in Namibia. Journal of Heredity, 99, 2–13.
  • Masseti M (2009) Pictorial evidence from medieval Italy of cheetahs and caracals, and their use in hunting. Archives of Natural History, 36, 37–47.
  • May RM (1995) Population genetics. The cheetah controversy. Nature, 374, 309–310.
  • Menotti-Raymond MA, O’Brien SJ (1993) Dating the genetic bottleneck of the African cheetah. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 90, 3172–3176.
  • Menotti-Raymond MA, O’Brien SJ (1995) Evolutionary conservation of ten microsatellite loci in four species of Felidae. Journal of Heredity, 86, 319–322.
  • Menotti-Raymond MA, David VA, Lyons LA et al. (1999) A genetic linkage map of microsatellites in the domestic cat (Felis catus).Genomics, 57, 9–23.
  • Moritz C (1994) Defining ‘evolutionary significant units’ for conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 9, 373–375.
  • Nei M (1987) Molecular Evolutionary Genetics. Columbia University Press, New York, 512 pp.
  • Nei M, Li W (1979) Mathematical model for studying genetic variation in terms of restriction endonucleases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 76, 5269–5273.
  • Nielsen R, Wakeley J (2001) Distinguishing migration from isolation: a Markov chain Monte Carlo approach. Genetics, 158, 885–896.
  • Nowell K, Jackson P (1996) Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan—Wild Cats. IUCN, Gland, 384 pp.
  • Nsubuga AM, Robbins MM, Roeder AD, Morin PA, Boesch C, Vigilant L (2004) Factors affecting the amount of genomic DNA extracted from ape faeces and the identification of an improved sample storage method. Molecular Ecology, 13, 2089–2094.
    Direct Link:
  • O’Brien SJ, Johnson WE (2005) Big cat genomics. Annual Reviews of Genomics and Human Genetics, 6, 407–429.
  • O’Brien SJ, Mayr E (1991) Bureaucratic mischief: recognizing endangered species and subspecies. Science, 251, 1187–1188.
  • O’Brien SJ, Wildt D, Goldman D, Merril C, Bush M (1983) The cheetah is depauperate in genetic variation. Science, 221, 459–462.
  • O’Brien SJ, Wildt D, Bush M et al. (1987) East African cheetahs: evidence for two population bottlenecks? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 84, 508–511.
  • Ohta T, Kimura M (1973) A model of mutation appropriate to estimate the number of electrophoretically detectable alleles in a genetic population. Genetical Research, 22, 201–204.
  • Osborn DJ, Helmy I (1980) The Contemporary Land Mammals of Egypt (Including Sinai). Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL, 579 pp.
  • Paetkau D, Waits LP, Clarkson PL, Craighead L, Strobeck C (1997) An empirical evaluation of genetic distance satistics using microsatellite data from bear (Ursidae) populations. Genetics, 147, 1943–1957.
  • Pfeiffer I, Volkel I, Taubert H, Brenig B (2004) Forensic DNA-typing of dog hair: DNA-extraction and PCR amplification. Forensic Science International, 141, 149–151.
  • Pimm SL, Dollar L, Bass OL Jr (2006) The genetic rescue of the Florida panther. Animal Conservation, 9, 115–122.
    Direct Link:
  • Piry S, Luikart G, Cornuet J-M (1999) BOTTLENCK: a computer program for detecting recent reductions in the effective population size using allele frequency data. Journal of Heredity, 90, 502–503.
  • Pocock RI (1939) The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Taylor and Francis, London, 549 pp.
  • Posada D, Crandall KA (1998) Modeltest: testing the model of DNA substitution. Bioinformatics, 14, 817–818.
  • Pruvost M, Geigl E-M (2004) Real-time quantitative PCR to assess the authenticity of ancient DNA amplification. Journal of Archaeological Science, 31, 1191–1197.
  • Pruvost M, Grange T, Geigl E-M (2005) Minimizing DNA contamination by using UNG-coupled quantitative real-time PCR on degraded DNA samples: application to ancient DNA studies. BioTechniques, 38, 569–575.
  • Pruvost M, Schwarz R, Correia VB et al. (2007) Freshly excavated fossil bones are best for amplification of ancient DNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 104, 739–744.
  • R Development Core Team (2009) R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R.2.10.1. R Foundation for statistical computing, Vienna.
  • Rambaut A (2009) FigTree v1.3.1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh.
  • Ranjitsinh MK, Jhala YV (2010) Assessing the Potential for Reintroducing the Cheetah in India. Wildlife Trust of India, Noida, & Wildlife Institute of India TR2010/001, Dehradun, India, 177 pp.
  • Raymond M, Rousset F (1995) An exact test for population differentiation. Evolution, 49, 1280–1283.
  • Rooney AP, Honeycutt RL, Davis SK, Derr JN (1999) Evaluating a putative bottleneck in a population of bowhead whales from patterns of microsatellite diversity and genetic disequilibria. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 49, 682–690.
  • Ruiz-Garcia M, Payán E, Murillo A, Alvarez D (2006) DNA microsatellite characterization of the jaguar (Panthera onca) in Colombia.Genes & Genetic System, 81, 15–27.
  • Saleh MA, Helmy I, Giegengack R (2001) The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber, 1776) in Egypt (Felidae, Acinonychinae).Mammalia, 65, 177–194.
  • Schmidt HA, Petzold E, Vingrom M, von Haeseler A (2003) Molecular phylogenetics: parallelized parameter estimation and quartet puzzling. Journal of Parallel and Distributed Computing, 63, 719–727.
  • Shriver MD, Jin L, Boerwinkle E, Deka R, Chakraborty R (1995) A novel measure of genetic distance for highly polymorphic tandem repeat loci. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 12, 914–920.
  • Spong G, Johansson M, Björklund M (2000) High genetic variation in leopards indicates large and long-term stable effective population size. Molecular Ecology, 9, 1773–1782.
    Direct Link:
  • Tajima F (1983) Evolutionary relationship of DNA sequences in finite populations. Genetics, 105, 437–460.
  • Tamura K, Nei M (1993) Estimation of the number of nucleotide substitutions in the control region of mitochondrial DNA in humans and chimpanzees. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 10, 512–526.
  • Tamura K, Dudley J, Nei M, Kumar S (2007) MEGA4: molecular evolutionary genetics analysis (MEGA) software version 4.0.Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24, 1596–1599.
  • Uphyrkina O, Johnson WE, Quigley H et al. (2001) Phylogenetics, genome diversity and origin of modern leopard, Panthera pardus.Molecular Ecology, 10, 2617–2633.
    Direct Link:
  • Vasan S, Zhang X, Kapurniotu A et al. (1996) An agent cleaving glucose-derived protein crosslinks in vitro and in vivo. Nature, 382,275–278.
  • Wakeley J, Hey J (1997) Estimating ancestral population parameters. Genetics, 145, 847–855.
  • Wisely S, Maldonado J, Fleischer R (2004) A technique for sampling ancient DNA that minimizes damage to museum specimens.Conservation Genetics, 5, 105–107.
  • Won Y, Young CR, Lutz RA, Vrijenhoek RC (2003) Dispersal barriers and isolation among deep-sea mussel populations (Mytilidae:Bathymodiolus) from eastern Pacific hydrothermal vents. Molecular Ecology, 12, 169–184.
    Direct Link:
  • Zhivotovsky LA (2001) Estimating divergence time with the use of microsatellite genetic distances: impacts of population growth and gene flow. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 18, 700–709.

Jump to…Top of pageAbstractIntroductionMaterials and methodsResultsDiscussionConclusionAcknowledgementsReferencesSupporting Information

Supporting Information

Table S1 Mitochondrial fragments amplified for aDNA analysis

Table S2 Comparisons of average numbers of alleles per locus and expected heterozygosities calculated from 15 microsatellite loci overlapping in four different felid species.

Table S3 Population pairwise distances (RST) based on 18 polymorphic microsatellite loci.

Fig. S1 Phylogenetic relationship based on a ML tree inferred from the 915-bp concatenated mtDNA fragment.

Filename

Format

Size

Description

MEC_4986_sm_SupportingInformation.doc


98K

Supporting info item

Please note: Wiley-Blackwell are not responsible for the content or functionality of any supporting materials supplied by the authors. Any queries (other than missing material) should be directed to the corresponding author for the article.

Get PDF (646K)

More content like this

Find more content:

Find more content written by:



Copyright © 1999-2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


SOURCE:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x/pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x/full



9)


Cheetahs need extreme intervention


Jan 19, 2011, 3:31 PM | By Sapa; TimesLive


Conventional cheetah conservation methods need to be abandoned and extreme measures taken to save the species, the National Research Foundation said on Wednesday.


The conclusion follows new collaborative research on cheetah populations in Africa and Asia by the National Zoological Gardens (NZG) in Pretoria, which point to a complete re-think of the approach to ensuring the survival of the big cats.

"One of the most startling discoveries we made was that, contrary to conventional wisdom which maintains that cheetahs are generally in-bred, they are far more diverse as a species than originally thought," said Professor Antoinette Kotze, manager for research and scientific services at the NZG.

Not only are African cheetahs from various regions distinct from one another, but also more importantly, the Asiatic cheetah found in Iran was a distinct sub-species from the African variety.

The Iranian cheetah was believed to be on the brink of extinction, with an estimated 110 remaining.

Emphasising the urgent need for steps to prevent the extinction of the species, Kotze indicated the Iranian government had renewed its commitment to a major conservation effort.

"The next few years are critical... We need to completely re-think our approach to cheetah conservation worldwide," she said.

The aim of the five-year project, carried out by the NZG under Kotze's leadership, was to confirm whether the cheetah as a species maintained a low level of genetic variation as has been the assumption up to now.

The study was done in conjunction with researchers from the University of Vienna, the French National Research Centre and the Portuguese Science Foundation.

Kotze said the research project was a "long and arduous process" as it entailed gathering DNA samples of living animals in the wild, in zoos and from museum specimens in Southern Africa, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Djibouti, Great Britain, Germany, France and Belgium.

"Gathering information from zoo specimens was relatively easy as much of the information relating to origin was available from the International Species Information System," she said.

On the other hand, the DNA investigation was a complex process, with samples of blood, hair, bone, skin and faeces of 95 different animals taken and the DNA extracted, and analysed using sophisticated technology.

SOURCE:

http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/article860335.ece/Cheetahs-need-extreme-intervention


Earlier NEWS:


1)


'Bringing cheetahs will not hit tourism, oil exploration'


Vimal Bhatia, TNN, Jan 17, 2011, 03.03am IST; THE TIMES OF INDIA


JAISALMER: R K Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, has said that bringing thecheetah to the Shahgarh Bulge in the state will not affect tourism or oil exploration.


The claim follows the state's hesitation in bringing the big cat for the ambitious project on re-establishing the cheetah population in the country.


"Bringing the cheetah to the Shahgarh Bulge will not affect tourism or oil exploration in the region," he told TOI.


The ministry of forest and environment, after a survey by the Wildlife Trust of India, had chosen Kuno-Palpur and Nauradehi in Madhya Pradesh and the Shahgarh Bulge in Jaisalmer district for reintroducing the cat, now extinct in the country.


However, while MP has already given its nod, in collaboration with a special task force, is preparing an eco-restoration plan and the budget for the next three years, Rajasthan is undecided.


The Centre has sanctioned Rs 25 lakh for the Madhya Pradesh government for Project Cheetah which is going ahead with preparation to import the animal. But divisions in the Rajasthan forest department as to whether it should be brought in at all to the state has held up the proposal here.


The state has made a survey of the region. Its officials are enthusiastic about the project. In fact, after the survey the state had also made plans on how to fence the area and where the entry point of the sanctuary could be placed. But after that came protests from the local population in Jaisalmer and those involved in oil exploration as they felt that the presence of the cat would be dangerous for the people.


Sources also said there is a resistance from the tourism lobby which feels that the presence of the cheetah could be dangerous for tourists There was opposition from the forest minister himself in the meeting of the state wildlife board when most officials in the department feel the area is best suited for the cheetah.


"Most think the cheetah to be as ferocious as the tiger. It is these people who, under this wrong notion, do not want to bring the cat there," senior officials of the department said.


SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/Cheetahs-will-not-hit-tourism-oil-exploration/articleshow/7299829.cms



2)



MP forest dept (India) wants to translocate antelopes to Palpur Kuno


19 DEC, 2010, 04.49PM IST,PTI ; THE ECONOMIC TIMES, TIMES OF INDIA


BHOPAL: With a huge rise in endangered blackbuck population in Madhya Pradesh, the state forest department wants to translocate 1000 Indian antelopes to Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, where its chief predator the Cheetah is proposed to be re-introduced in India.


"We have sent a proposal to the Centre seeking permission and funds to translocate 1000 blackbucks in Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary spread over an area of 300 sq km in Sheopur district where the Cheetahs are going to be re-introduced in India," Madhya Pradesh forest minister Sartaj Singh said.


Blackbuck population has witnessed a tremendous increase and now these animals with twisted horns were entering fields. Farmers are complaining that their crops were being damaged by the Indian antelopes, he said.


"We have blackbuck in the entire state and we want 1000 of these to be translocated in Palpur Kuno," he said.


He said that the work of shifting blackbucks and Cheetah can go simultaneously.


Singh said that Cheetah were very fond of preying on these mammals.


About Cheetah, he said that the first pack of it from South Africa will reach Palpur Kuno in the next winter.


SOURCE:


http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/environment/flora--fauna/MP-forest-dept-wants-to-translocate-antelopes-to-Palpur-Kuno/articleshow/7128043.cms



3)



Plan to return cheetah to India okayed, three sites identified


Neha Sinha; THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Tags : Ministry of Environment and Forests, Cheetah

Posted: Thu Jul 29 2010, 03:09 hrs

New Delhi:


The cheetah will run again in India. The Ministry of Environment and Forests today cleared a Rs 300-crore plan to raise 18 cheetahs at three sites — six in each — in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.



The Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked Iran to provide the cheetahs. The other option being considered are African cheetahs being bred in Sharjah.



The cheetah has been extinct in India since the 1960s, the only mammal other than the Sumatran Rhino to be wiped out from the country.



Last year, wildlife experts M K Ranjitsinh and Divyabhanu Singh, affiliated with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), proposed reintroducing the cheetah in India. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh pushed the project and sought a technical report from the WTI and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) on possible sites where the cheetah could be reintroduced.

The report, submitted today, identified Nauradehi sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh (1,197 sq km), Shahgarh on the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan (4,000 sq km) and Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh (6,800 sq km).



“We need to bring cheetahs to all three sites at once to create a meta-population. It will cost about Rs 100 crore to restore each site. This will include moving out settlements, introducing prey and all-round restorative inputs for the site,” said WII scientist Yadavendra Jhala.


SOURCE:

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/plan-to-return-cheetah-to-india-okayed-three-sites-identified/653280/


4)


Cheetah will run again in India

29 July 2010, Last updated at 02:49 ET; BBC NEWS


PHOTO: The vast majority of the 10,000 cheetahs left in the world are in Africa


The cheetah, eradicated in India by hunting nearly a century ago, will run again in the country, as three sites are earmarked for its reintroduction.

The government has approved wildlife groups' recommendations of two sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh and an area in Rajasthan as potential homes.

The government will spend 30m rupees ($0.6m; £0.4m) to restore these sites before the animals are imported.

The plan is to import the cats from Africa, Iran and the Middle East.

Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and Shahgarh area in Jaisalmer, in the northern state of Rajasthan, have been selected as the sites to house the animals.

Trophy hunters

Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said the reintroduction of the world's fastest land animal would "restore the grasslands" of India.

Wildlife experts say the two sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh had the capacity to accommodate nearly 80 cheetahs, although 23 human settlements will have to be moved from the one in Nauradehi.

Scores of nomadic human settlements would also have to be cleared at the site in Rajasthan on the international border with Pakistan.

"The return of the cheetah would make India the only country in the world to host six of the world's eight large cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia," MK Ranjitsinh of Wildlife Trust of India told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Pursued by trophy hunters and herdsmen to the brink of extinction during the Raj, the Asiatic cheetah vanished from India many decades ago.

Conservationists say less than 100 of the critically endangered subspecies remain in Iran, roaming the central deserts.

The vast majority of the 10,000 cheetahs left in the world are in Africa.

Critics of the reintroduction scheme in India say that without restoring habitat and prey base, and reducing the scope for man-animal conflict, viable cheetah populations will not flourish.

SOURCE:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10798747


5)


India seeks South Africa's help for importing cheetahs


IANS, Apr 14, 2010, 06.53pm IST; THE TIMES OF INDIA


NEW DELHI: More than 60 years after they were wiped out from the country, India is now seeking help from South Africa for importing cheetahs to re-introduce them in jungles back home, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday.


The environment ministry is in touch with the wildlife authority in South Africa for importing the big cat.


"I will be in South Africa on April 25-26 and will seek their participation in cheetah re-introduction in India," Ramesh told reporters.


Ramesh said that by May this year the ministry will have a detailed survey on feasibility of re-introduction of cheetahs in the country.


The survey, that will form the basis for the roadmap, is being carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the state governments concerned.


"The survey is being conducted in six locations - three in Madhya Pradesh, two in Rajasthan and one in Gujarat," he said.


The environment ministry last year gave the go-ahead to draft a detailed roadmap for the Cheetah Re-introduction Project, proposed by the WTI, and endorsed by wildlife experts.


The return of the cheetah would make India the only country in the world to host six of the world's eight large cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia.


In the past, India's last cheetah in the wild was said to have been shot in the Reva area of Madhya Pradesh in the 1940s.


The cheetah, the smallest of the big cats, can run faster than any other animal on land, at more than 100 km per hour.


SOURCE:


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/India-seeks-South-Africas-help-for-importing-cheetahs/articleshow/5803716.cms



6)



India agrees to cheetah survey

Page last updated at 08:51 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 09:51 UK; BBC NEWS


PHOTO: Conservationists fear that cheetahs will end up in 'controlled' environments


The Indian government has approved a survey of sites which can accommodate the cheetah, in an effort to reintroduce the animal in the country.

Wildlife groups have shortlisted seven sites in the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh as potential homes.

The sites include national parks, sanctuaries and other open areas.

The cheetah - the world's fastest land animal - became extinct in India nearly a century ago.

The environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh has approved a "detailed survey" of the shortlisted sites, according to a statement issued by the Wildlife Trust of India, which is leading the project.

These sites will now be surveyed extensively to find out the state of the habitat, the number of prey and prospects of man-animal conflict to finally determine whether they can accommodate the cheetah.

The survey will form the "basis of a roadmap" to be carried out by wildlife groups and concerned state governments to reintroduce the cheetah in India.

"We have been given a mandate to prepare this roadmap in four months," said Dr Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India.

"The return of the cheetah would make India the only country in the world to host six of the world's eight large cats and the only one to have all the large cats of Asia."

If one or more sites are found to have favourable habitat and prey for the cheetah, India will then possibly have to import the cat from Africa, because the numbers of the Asiatic cheetah which are available only in Iran have dwindled to under 100.

The vast majority of the 10,000 cheetahs left in the world are in Africa.

Critics of the scheme in India say that without restoring habitat and prey base and the chances of a man-animal conflict, viable cheetah populations cannot be established.


SOURCE:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8298270.stm


7)


Cheetah to get a new lease of life in India




Monday, Sep 21, 2009; Sunny Sebastian; The Hindu; Online edition of India's National Newspaper

PHOTO: Ready for a comeback?: Stuffed skin of a Indian cheetah preserved at the Regional Museum of Natural History at Mysore city.

JAIPUR: Despite the setbacks on the tiger front in the recent years, the country is considering the re-introduction of cheetah, the animal which went extinct in 1947, into its wild. A time frame of six months has been kept for selecting a terrain for the animal which has an amazing reach being the fastest animal in the world.


Against a world population of one lakh at the turn of the previous century, the number of cheetahs at present has come down to less than 10,000. Along with India, 15 other countries witnessed the extinction of the animal in the past 60 years. Now Namibia hosts the largest population of cheetahs in the world while Asiatic cheetahs—more akin to the animal India had—survive only in Iran. Their number is said to be less than 100. A consultative meeting held at Gajner in Bikaner district of Rajasthan earlier this month decided to entrust the job of carrying out a reconnaissance of the locations to experts from Wildlife Institute of India, Wildlife Trust of India - the NGO which initiated the process - and the State Governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.


The consultation, attended by experts such as Stephen J. O’Brien of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, Laurie Marker of Cheetah Conservation Fund and M.K. Ranjitsinh, chairman Wildlife Trust of India and Divyabhanusinh Chavda, president WWF-India, in principle accepted the idea of re-introduction of the cheetah though the authorities remained cautious in their commitment.


“Many people are thrilled about the prospect. Many are critical saying that there is no habitat available and that when India cannot protect its national animal—the tiger—why should it embark on this venture,” said Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, who could not make it to the venue, in a message. “Personally I feel that we would be reclaiming a part of our wonderful and varied ecological history if the cheetah was to be reintroduced in the wild…” he said. Though initially the Indian side was keen on getting cheetahs from Iran, the experts advised the gathering against it. Both Dr. O ‘Brien and Dr. Marker were of the view that sourcing cheetahs from Namibia, instead of trying to get specimen from the limited population Iran, would be advisable. There is no significant difference between African and Asiatic cheetahs as both got separated only some 5,000 years back, they asserted.


Mr. Ramesh, during a visit to Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan a few days back had revealed that Iran has been asking a lion in exchange for the cheetah and the deal was not likely to materialize as Gujarat would be unwilling to part with its lions.


Experts are also of the view that the Iran population should be left untouched as any experiment in re-introduction in India would require at least 10 cheetahs. Moreover the nature and spread of the jungles in Namibia are said to be similar to those India with villages interspersed in between.

Among the locations short listed as the probable habitat for cheetahs in India include Rajasthan’s Shahgarh Bulge, north west of Jaisalmer along the India-Pakistan border, Chandan, located between Pokhran and Jaisalmer and Baran Bhakar, near Jodhpur. In Gujarat the probable locations are Banni, a 2000 sq km stretch near the Rann of Kutch and Narain Sarovar sanctuary.


Places identified in Madhya Pradesh are Sanjay Dubri sanctuary, adjoining Chattisgarh, Naura Dehi and Palpur Kuno, recommended also for re-introduction of lions. The surprise entrants in the race are Sholapur-Kolapur in Maharashtra and grasslands in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka’s Bijapur. There are suggestions on starting a cheetah breeding centre at Gajner or near Jodhpur.


SOURCE:

http://www.hindu.com/2009/09/21/stories/2009092159870700.htm



8)


India plans return of the cheetah

Sunday, 20 September 2009 00:22 UK; BBC NEWS


PHOTO: Cheetahs became extinct in India half a century ago

India plans to bring back the cheetah, nearly half a century after it became extinct in the country. The BBC's Soutik Biswas considers whether it is a good idea.

Will the world's fastest land animal make a comeback in India, nearly half a century after it became extinct in the country?

A serious initiative is afoot to bring the cheetah back to India and make it, as many wildlife experts say, the "flagship species" of the country's grasslands, which do not have a single prominent animal now.

A similar effort in the 1970s - India was then talking to Iran, which had around 300 cheetahs at that time - flopped after the Shah of Iran was deposed and the negotiations never progressed.

'Strong case'

A recent meeting of wildlife officials, cheetah experts and conservationists from all over the world discussed the "reintroduction" of the spotted cat and agreed that the case for its return to India was strong.

Seven sites - national parks, sanctuaries and other open areas - in the four states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh have been shortlisted as potential homes for the cheetah.

These sites will now be surveyed extensively to find out the state of the habitat, the number of prey and prospects of man-animal conflict to finally determine whether they can accommodate the cheetah.

PHOTO: The last Asiatic cheetah are found in Iran


If one or more sites are found to have favourable habitat and prey for the cheetah, India will then possibly have to import the cat from Africa, because the numbers of the Asiatic cheetah which are available only in Iran have dwindled to under 100.

The vast majority of the 10,000 cheetahs left in the world are in Africa.

Genetic scientists like the US-based Stephen O'Brien say that the genetic similarities between the Iranian and African cheetah is "very close", so there should be no problems bringing the latter to India.

Most of the experts agreed that wild cheetahs or the progeny of wild cheetahs in captivity should be brought to India, quarantined for a while, and released in the selected habitats.

Dr Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, says reintroducing the cheetah "will not be easy - but it is doable".

"We have the techniques and knowledge to do it. The cheetah living in India again might be a good thing. Its extinction is fairly recent and it is a top predator which could help by becoming an icon, help bring back the health of grassland ecosystems," she says.

'Haste'

But many leading conservationists have doubts about the current initiative.

They fear that in its haste to bring back the cheetah, India will end up housing them in semi-captive conditions in huge, secured open air zoos, but not free in the wild.

They say that without restoring habitat and prey base and the chances of a man-animal conflict, viable cheetah populations cannot be established.

"The present initiative of bringing in a few cheetahs from Africa and letting them loose in an enclosure where they will be fed artificially given the size of the enclosure and the cheetah's natural prey requirements is putting the cart before the horse," says Dr K Ulhas Karanth, one of India's top conservation experts.

PHOTO: Conservationists fear that cheetahs will end up in 'controlled' environments


"Where are the several thousand square kilometres of habitat free of small livestock, children and other potential prey? If cheetahs are to be introduced, relocation of human settlements on a sufficient scale to create the vast habitats will be needed. How can we deal with conflict between cheetahs and wild animals?"

Studies show that at least 200 cheetahs were killed in India during the colonial period mainly due to conflicts with sheep and goat herders, and not because they were shot by trophy hunters.

Also, conservationists point to India's chequered record of reintroducing animals.

Lions were reintroduced in Chandraprabha santuary in the 1950s, but poached out of existence. Tigers were reintroduced in Dungarpur in the 1920s, but they were all shot dead by the end of 1950s.

Even captive breeding exercises have proved to be futile sometimes - in the early 1990s, American zoos captive-bred lion tailed monkeys for release in India's Western Ghats even as monkeys were getting poached and their forest habitats logged.

Then there is the question of prey - a cheetah, says environmental historian Mahesh Rangarajan, needs at least 50 to 80 antelope sized prey a year, and a mother needs more.

"Is such a prey base at all available?" asks Mr Rangarajan.

'Conserving ecosystem'

In India, cheetahs would essentially prey on blackbuck and gazelle -the largest herd of blackbuck in India is some 2,000 animals and already has the wolf as a predator.

"Cheetah could live off smaller prey, but then you need a lot more of them," says Mr Rangarajan.

But the conservationists who are leading the initiative say these fears are unfounded, and the decision to bring back the cat to India will only be taken after the shortlisted sites are fully examined for habitat, prey and potential for man-animal conflict.


PHOTO: Cheetahs require a huge prey base


MK Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, which is participating in the new initiative, says the plan is to import African cheetahs and release them in the wild in designated open areas, which have been examined and checked thoroughly.

"The plan is to bring cheetahs from the wild in Africa and release them in the wild in India. The cat will help in conserving the ecosystem," he says.

Even the federal environment minister Jairam Ramesh is upbeat about the initiative.

"Personally, I feel we would be reclaiming a part of our wonderful and varied ecological history if the cheetah was to be reintroduced in the wild," he says.

Clearly it is early days and it may be quite some time before the cheetah stalks India's grasslands once again.

But reintroducing the cat in India has a lot of symbolic value.

The first cheetah in the world to be bred in captivity was in India during the rule of Mughal emperor Jahangir. His father, Akbar, recorded that there were 10,000 cheetahs during his time.

Much later, research showed that were at least 230 cheetahs in India between 1799 and 1968 - and the cat was reportedly sighted for the last time in the country in 1967-68.

Clearly, returning the cheetah to India - the only large mammal to become extinct since independence in 1947 - is going to be the easy part.

Making sure it thrives and doesn't get poached and get into conflict with humans is going to be much, much harder.


SOURCE:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8262862.stm


9)

More places identified for housing cheetah (In INDIA)


Anindo Dey, TNN, Sep 11, 2009, 03.41am IST; Times of India





GAJNER (Bikaner): Three more states joined the list of probable places for the release of the cheetah if and when the big cat eventually finds its way into the country.


Joining the list of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.


The working group formed for chalking out the management and release protocol of the cheetah on Thursday recommended the Bijapur-Solapur area as a place that "can be looked into". Areas in Andhra Pradesh were also recommended.


Interestingly, the working group identified fresh areas in Rajasthan too, either for the release of the cat or creating a holding facility. The Shahgarh Bulge near the border, the group felt, could be used for the purpose. "The area is spread over more than 2,000 sq km and has less than 15 settlements," it said.


Another area under consideration for the release of the cat in the state is the 9,000-sq km Chandan grasslands, also situated near the border. However, the assistance of the army would be required for this. The Bara Bakar areas in Jodhpur spread over 25 sq km could be suited for a holding facility, the group felt.


Other places identified with potential for housing of the cheetah are the 200-sq km Banni and the 440-sq km Narayan Sarovar in Gujarat with Jambudia Vidi as an area for a captive facility. In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Sanjay-Dhubri-Ghasi Das area, Nauradehi and Kuno-Palpur areas are also identified.


However, as these do not make an exhaustive list of places, more would be identified, out of which 4 sites would be shortlisted.


The meeting also identified South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and UAE as places from where the cheetah could be brought to India. "About 5 to 10 animals annually have to be brought to India over a period of 5 to 10 years," another working group, formed on sourcing and translocation of the cheetah, recommended.


Summing up the session at the outset, Wildlife Trust of India chairman M K Ranhitsinh said that the meeting had resolved at least two issues: there would be no breeding centre and a soft release would be done.


"All other recommendations from the various working groups will be combined for preparing a final roadmap for bringing the cheetah back to India. We would then hand over the roadmap to the government for a final decision," he said.

SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-4996884,prtpage-1.cms


10)



Experts eye African cheetahs for reintroduction (In INDIA), to submit plan

September 10, 2009 11:42:23 PM GMT-04:00 by IANS

New Delhi, Sep 11 (IANS) Cheetah experts who gathered in Gajner in Rajasthan to discuss plans to reintroduce the animal in India have endorsed a proposal to bring cheetahs from Africa, six decades after they became extinct in the country.
There is no significant difference between the African and Asiatic cheetah and the animal can be reintroduced in India if habitat, adequate prey base and security are provided, said Stephen J. O’Brien, world’s leading conservation geneticist.

The African and Indian cheetahs were separated some 5,000 years ago and that is “not enough for a subspecies level differentiation”, he maintained, stressing that “your decisions should not be based on the genetic arguments” alone.

In comparison, the lion subspecies were separated some 100,000 years ago, so was the African and Asian leopard subspecies 169,000 years ago.

Cheetah expert Laurie Marker said: “Cheetahs have gone extinct from 15 countries in the last 60 years. Iran has less than 100 cheetahs. For reintroduction purposes, I will not recommend taking any individuals from Iran.”

The conference was organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), an NGO, to work out a roadmap to reintroduce the animal in India.

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, who inaugurated the conference said: “I feel that we owe it to the animal whose very name is derived from Sanskrit.

“And that was once so ubiquitous in our country to at least analyse the pros and cons, examine the advantages and risks in a dispassionate and professional manner drawing on the best international expertise on the subject.

“Personally, I feel that we would be reclaiming a part of our wonderful and varied ecological history if the cheetah was to be reintroduced in the wild but I will be guided by the consensus amongst the experts on this matter.”

The conference deliberated on a range of issues such as habitat, prey availability, man-animal conflict, management and sourcing of stock population, among others, WTI said in a statement after the meeting held near Rajasthan’s Bikaner city, some 450 km for Delhi.

The chief wildlife wardens of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, officials of the environment ministry, cheetah experts from across the globe, including representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and IUCN, an international conservation NGO, among others, participated.

Yadvendradev Jhala of the WII presented a study on the potential cheetah reintroduction sites in India. However, site-specific study in greater detail would be necessary before a final selection can be recommended.

Meanwhile, WTI and WII will jointly develop a reintroduction plan, which will be submitted to the government.

SOURCE:

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/enviornment/experts-eye-african-cheetahs-for-reintroduction-to-submit-plan_100245817.html


11)


Workshop on cheetah relocation begins, views differ


PTI, Sep 9, 2009, 07.24pm IST; Times of India


GAJNER (Raj): Strategies to reintroduce the cheetah in the country's wild were discussed threadbare at a workshop on Wednesday with some experts supporting the idea even as the government said an in-depth study is required before taking a decision on the translocation of spotted cats.


Cheetah experts from Iran, South Africa, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) among others are attending the two-day consultative meeting on cheetah translocation.


Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, who could not make it to the event, sounded cautious. In a message he said, "There are risk are indubitable. However, I feel that we owe it to the animal...that was once so ubiquitous in our country to at least analyse the pros and cons, examine the advantages and risks in a dispassionate and professional manner drawing on the best international expertise in the subject."


Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority, said "Several issues which we face with tiger conservation are relevant in case of cheetah as well. We started with the wistful thinking of providing buffer areas to tiger reserves but even after over 30 years we have not been able to do so. Poaching and man-animal conflicts have taken toll on the striped animal."


WTI, which has conceived the idea is exploring the possibility of introducing cheetah in India from South Africa where around 10,000 species are left in the wild, felt that if the plan is seriously considered, cheetahs can be soon be found leaping in the wild.


This project would in no way affect the efforts to conserve the tiger, nor for that matter any other species or protected areas. In fact, reintroduction of the cheetah could spearhead rehabilitation of degraded grasslands and stimulate public interest in conservation of areas of proposed relocation, which are inhabited by other less glamorous species in need of protection," said WTI chairman M K Ranjitsinh, who leads the cheetah reintroduction project.


WII has already identified 11 possible habitats in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand where cheetahs can be re-populated in the next 30 years.


"Self-sustainable population should be our main aim. Desert National Park and Talchappar in Rajasthan, Bhal, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary and Banni sanctuary in Gujarat, Kuno and Nauradhi in Madhya Pradesh can also be considered. But efforts need to be taken to relocate people and ensure healthy prey-base before the animal can be released here," Y Jhala, a senior scientist with WII said.


According to Ranjitsinh, a roadmap for reintroducing the spotted cats in the wild will be prepared and submitted to the environment ministry for further action.


Strongly favouring the project, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) director Asasd Rahmani said identifying a species like cheetah is always an advantage to saving disappearing grassland and other endangered animals.


"African and Asian cheetahs are similar in nature and have same genetic make-up. So India can have the animal from South Africa if it is not getting from Iran (which has already refused to part with its Asian cheetah)," noted cheetah expert Stephen J O Brien of Laboratory of Genomic Diversity of National Cancer Institute said.


SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Workshop-on-cheetah-relocation-begins-views-differ-/articleshow/4991394.cms


12)


India tries cheetah diplomacy on Iran

By James Lamont in New Delhi; Asia-Pacific; FINANCIAL TIMES; http://www.ft.com

Published: August 5 2009 17:33 | Last updated: August 5 2009 17:33

New Delhi has reached out to Tehran in south Asia’s equivalent of panda diplomacy, seeking the delivery of the speedier, and considerably less cuddly, cheetah.

The Indian government has contacted Iran to explore the possibility of the Islamic Republic supplying cheetahs to help to re-establish their presence on the subcontinent decades after they were hunted to extinction.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

In depth: Iran - Aug-03

Iran poll critics boycott ceremony - Aug-03

Khatami attacks Iran ‘show trials’ - Aug-03

Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, said he was in discussion with the Iranian authorities about what would be a breakthrough in wildlife conservation and unusual, high-profile co-operation between the two countries. The Islamic Republic has previously been deaf to calls from India to share its small and very rare Asiatic cheetah population.

The Iran ian embassy in Delhi said on Wednesday its government was in the process of “arranging” talks.

India’s request comes ahead of a meeting of wildlife conservation experts on September 9 to discuss re introducing cheetahs to Rajasthan. They are ex pected to propose purchasing the feline hunters from Africa, where they are in greater abundance, with a view to breeding them in captivity, then setting them free in protected, semi-arid locations in India.

The contact with Tehran, which has faced protests after a disputed presidential election, follows a recent declaration by the US that it is open to Indian advice about how to deal with the threat of Iran’s developing nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, during a five-day visit to India last month said she was discussing Iran’s nuclear programme with the Indian authorities. India has warm bilateral ties with Iran. Trade between the two countries was estimated at about $9bn (€6.3bn, £5.3bn) last year, supported mainly by hydrocarbons.

“We will be exploring with India their approach and perspectives towards Iran and any advice they can contribute to an international consensus about the dangers posed to global stability if Iran were to become a nuclear weapons power,” Mrs Clinton said.

She also highlighted during her visit the role India might play in furthering nuclear non-proliferation in the region, and beyond, as part of an improved relationship with Washington.

Indian foreign policy experts say New Delhi could act as an interlocutor with Iran to help the international community’s engagement with the country over its nuclear ambitions, which Tehran insists are peaceful.

But few expect India to support much stronger international sanctions against Iran.

Whether or not Iran decides to follow China’s example by using its rare animals to boost its popularity abroad, big cat conservation remains a concern in India. In spite of efforts to protect them, tigers are frequently killed.

This week the government estimated that tigers, the national symbol, in the country’s parks now numbered as few as 1,400, from about 40,000 a century ago. Lions are down to about 350.

“There are more tiger experts than tigers in India,” lamented Mr Ramesh.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.


SOURCE:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c5792cd0-81da-11de-9c5e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1C6oVGAI1

Please respect FT.com's ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email ftsales.support@ft.com to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article - http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c5792cd0-81da-11de-9c5e-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1C6ocZxAu

http://www.IranNewsDigest.com/2009/08/06/india-tries-cheetah-diplomacy-on-iran/


13)


Bridging the Iran-West divide to save cheetahs

By Fredrik Dahl

KUH-E BAFGH PROTECTED AREA, Iran | Thu Jun 19, 2008 3:00pm IST; REUTERS

(Reuters) - Iranian and Western wildlife experts are working together to save rare cheetahs from extinction in this arid, mountainous region, despite a nuclear row between their governments.

U.S.- and British-based conservation groups are backing a campaign spearheaded by Iran's Department of Environment (DoE) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to prevent the endangered Asiatic cheetah from dying out.

Iran is believed to host the only 60 - 100 Asiatic cheetahs left in the wild. Some eke out a living in a forbidding terrain of jagged peaks, deep gorges and bone-dry plains in the Kuh-e Bafgh protected area in Yazd province in central Iran.

The sleek and spotted cats once roamed between the Arabian peninsula and India, but their number in Iran is estimated to have fallen by roughly half in the last three decades.

"This is a wonderful case of the urgent conservation needs of the cheetah transcending political differences," executive director Luke Hunter of Panthera, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in New York, said in an e-mail.

The United States, which severed ties with Iran after its 1979 Islamic revolution, is leading efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern country over nuclear work Washington suspects is aimed at making bombs, a charge Tehran denies.

But Hunter, an Australian, said he believed "both Iranians and Americans realize that we cannot afford to allow politics to affect the cheetahs. If we did, we could lose them."

Iranian officials expressed similar views.

"I love anybody who works for conservation and wildlife protection. It doesn't matter who it is," said Ali Akhbar Karimi, a 59-year-old veteran from Iran's Department of Environment in Yazd province.

Until the first half of the 20th century, Iran was home to four of the so-called big cats -- including lions and tigers -- but now only leopards and cheetahs remain.

The Asiatic cheetah is closely related to its better-known African counterpart, a killing machine that can reach speeds of over 60 miles an hour in pursuit of its prey.

In Iran, cheetahs have been pushed close to extinction by increased population pressure and a lack of resources to protect them, with villagers hunting their prey for food and herds of sheep and goat encroaching on their habitats.

"We need to do something urgent to save them," said Iranian biologist Houman Jowkar, field director for U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Yazd.

"It is a national treasure."

PHOTOS (7): CHEETAH KILL


The Kuh-e Bafgh Protected Area, stretching for 885 sq km (342 sq miles) across a remote part of Yazd, is one of five such pockets of land in Iran where the cheetah still holds out, despite the poaching of gazelles and other prey.

It is hard to believe anything or anybody can thrive in the rocky and bushy landscape, parched brown already in May.

Temperatures here soar to around 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the summer and plunge below freezing in winter.

Karimi said he had seen several cheetahs this year, including females with cubs, offering hope for the future.

None was in sight, however, when he took this reporter and a photographer on a three-hour trek across ravines and ridges.

Apart from the labored breathing of the Reuters crew struggling to keep up with Karimi, who scaled steep rocks with ease despite a history of heart attacks, absolute stillness reigned.

Scanning the landscape with his binoculars, Karimi said he suspected a leopard or a cheetah was nearby as the wild goats normally grazing here seemed to have been frightened off.

"These are the remains of a cheetah kill," he said pointing at a white bone lying on the ground.

Iran's Department of Environment and the UNDP joined forces to launch the cheetah project in 2001, with the help of well-known U.S. wildlife biologist George Schaller.

His emergency recommendations included increased anti-poaching efforts and the appointment of new game guards.

Panthera and the WCS provide funds, expertise and training, while the Zoological Society of London also gives money.

"FLAGSHIP CONSERVATION PROJECT"

In early 2007, the WCS introduced a program to trap up to eight of the cheetahs and fit them with radio-tracking collars to follow their movements and learn more about them.

"You must know where it lives exactly," said Jowkar.

Adapting to the harsh surroundings, Iran's cheetahs have developed different behavior from the cheetahs living in greater numbers on the savannahs of Africa.

Jowkar said there were signs the Iranian cats were active at night, and they also had thicker fur during winter.


Only two cheetahs have been caught so far and fitted with collars, and one of those was later killed by a leopard in a fight over food. But Jowkar said he hoped the capture season starting in November would be more successful.

"We know the area better, we know the habitat better, and probably we can catch more cheetahs," he said.

Mehdi Kamyab, a senior UNDP official in Tehran, described the campaign to save the wild cat as a "flagship conservation project" using new techniques and methods.

The initial $750,000 budget, for which the UNDP was responsible, has been virtually depleted but more would be injected, he said. The WCS and the DoE also provide funding.

"This is just a start, obviously. We need to build on this," Kamyab said. "It is still an endangered species."

Hunter said the program had so far been "reasonably successful" as cheetah numbers seemed to have stabilized. He praised the DoE for raising local awareness and increasing penalties for those killing the animals.

"However, there is still a very serious problem with the hunting of the cheetah prey in some areas," he said.

WCS Assistant Director Peter Zahler said his organization had the necessary U.S. and Iranian permits to work in Iran and had encountered no major political or logistical problems.

"Our donors, partners and both governments recognize that endangered wildlife cannot always wait for political solutions and that wildlife conservation is itself not a political activity," he said in an e-mail.

"In fact, engaging in such activities has a long history all over the world of bringing peoples, who are otherwise at odds on certain issues, to the table over a subject with which they are all in agreement."

(Editing by Clar Ni Chonghaile)


SOURCE (3 Page article):

http://in.reuters.com/article/idINDAH85514520080619?pageNumber=1

http://in.reuters.com/article/idINDAH85514520080619?pageNumber=2

http://in.reuters.com/article/idINDAH85514520080619?pageNumber=3

Also available at:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKNOA93473120080619


HALF-DECADE BACK IN 2005 and before:


1)


No cloning of Cheetah: Iran


Kounteya Sinha, TNN, Jul 9, 2005, 01.01am IST; THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: India's ambitious plan to clone the cheetah, which vanished from the subcontinent in 1962 due to largescale hunting, has run into a dead end.


Iran has refused to send two cheetahs — a male and a female — to India for research purposes. They have also refused to allow a team of scientists from Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) to travel to Iran to collect sperm and tissue samples from a cheetah in a zoo there.


The CCMB has been trying for over six years to get some tissues of the animal from Iran for cloning.


CCMB director Lalji Singh and his team wanted to take the genes from live cheetah cells and fuse it with empty leopard eggs.


Any resulting embryos would then be carried in leopard surrogates. Iran is the only country where a close relative of the extinct Indian cheetah is found.


Singh, who was the first scientist in India to use DNA fingerprinting to solve criminal cases, said, "Iran and India were to jointly work on the conservation of cheetahs in Iran and cloning of cheetahs in India.


A team comprising members from the ministry of environment and forests, Zoo Authority of India, Wildlife Institute of India and the CCMB were to leave for Iran. I had personally made this request to Iranian president Mohammad Khatami when he visited CCMB."


"However, the Iranian government just recently informed us that they will not loan India two cheetahs or allow us to travel to Iran for sample collection," he said, adding, "The letter asked us to contact Africa which is home to a lot more cheetahs."


CCMB, which has been working on this project for the past six years was also ready with a special lab near Nehru Zoological Park.


The lab which costed Rs 12 crores and was to be launched in August had facilities to develop test-tube baby methods, egg and sperm banks and cloning technology to preserve endangered species.


Scientists in CCMB were also being trained in nucleus transfer, using the same technique on rats, mice and rabbits.

SOURCE:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-cloning-of-Cheetah-Iran/articleshow/1165783.cms


2)


CCMB’s (in India) Iran hope for Asiatic cheetah

PALLAVA BAGLA, The Indian Express

Posted: Jan 28, 2003 at 0000 hrs IST

NEW DELHI, JANUARY 27:

Visiting Iranian President Khatami is in for a surprise request from Indian scientists when he visits Hyderabad on Tuesday. Indian scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, are going to make a fervent plea in front of the visiting dignitary for the initiation of a collaborative project on the cloning of the Asiatic cheetah.

Earlier on Saturday, India and Iran signed an agreement on cooperation in science and technology, which among other things hopes to ‘‘realise the potential of collaboration in biotechnology’’. Dr Mustafa Moin, the visiting science minister from Iran, ‘‘has expressed keen interest in genetic engineering’’.This has given hope to the Indian side that Iran might agree to cooperate on the forward-looking cheetah-cloning project. Dr Lalji Singh director of CCMB and chief of the Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Animals told The Indian Express that he would make a very strong case to President Khatami that a joint collaborative project be immediately initiated on the cloning of the cheetah.

Singh says his biggest hurdle is trying to procure a live cheetah. He says if a live animal is not possible, a small amount of live tissue can also do the job. He says in the last 2-3 years they have been working hard in trying to perfect using the Indian leopard as a surrogate mother to conduct the first ever cloning of the Asiatic cheetah.

Known for its agility and high speed the Asiatic cheetah went extinct from India in 1948. Today they are only found in Iran and Singh says the ideal situation will be if Iran agrees to translocate one live pair to India. He adds that if that is not possible he is more than willing to go to Iran to collect some live cells of the Cheetah, which can then be made into living cell lines.


SOURCE:

http://www.indianexpress.com/oldStory/17389/


3)


India to Clone Endangered (Asiatic) Cheetah


By Devinder Sharma, Environment News Service


DELHI, India, October 24, 2000 (ENS) - India is planning to clone the world's fastest running animal, the cheetah, with the goal of reintroducing the endangered cat into the wild.


With the establishment of a state of the art Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) in Hydrabad, India is all set to bring the cheetah back to the wild. Using the tools of modern biotechnology, scientists plan to produce the first cheetah clones within five years.


PHOTO: Cheetahs (Photo courtesy Catai Tours)


The cheetah cloning project, for which an outlay of Rs 50 million has already been made by the government of India, is a collaboration involving the Department of Biotechnology, Central Zoo Authority, the Nehru Zoological Park and the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department. One of the countrys leading corporate houses, Reliance Industries, has also expressed willingness to support the initiative.


Dr. Singh, who heads the 14 member crack team, plans to extend the program to lion, tiger, deer, non-human primates and birds. Already, LaCONES has begun work on a long term repository for genes, sperm, eggs and cell lines of endangered species. Preliminary work on the cloning project has also begun within the CCMB premises.


Cheetahs disappeared from the wild in India more than 50 years ago. In fact, the last sighting of the cheetah was recorded in 1948, when three young males were shot dead by a hunting party in the jungles of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, central India.


At the turn of the 20th century, hundreds of thousands of cheetahs lived in Africa, western Asia, and India. But today, only scattered groups of cheetahs remain, chiefly in southern and eastern Africa and in the semiarid Sahel region south of the Sahara.

Estimates of the current African cheetah population range from a low of 5,000 to highs of 15,000 to 25,000. Another 1,000 cheetahs live in captivity around the world, about 300 of them in North America.


"It will be an ambitious project for the conservation of wildlife species. Already, American researchers have cloned the Indian Bison, and efforts are being made to clone the Chinese Panda. But nowhere have the scientists taken up this massive and certainly difficult task in a systematic way," says Dr. Lalji Singh, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) at Hyderabad.


The cloning of the bison to which Dr. Singh refers is a project of Massachusetts scientists from Advanced Cell Technology, a private company. The birth of the cloned gaur is expected any day.


Aware that cloning is not an easy task, the Indian team hopes to draw and create cell lines from the genetic material taken out from live Asiatic cheetah cells. These cell lines would then be infused into the eggs of a leopard, whose hereditary material has already have been stripped - remove the nucleus from the egg and replace it with the nucleus from the skin cells of the cheetah. The transgenic embryo would then be inserted into the receptive womb of a leopard.


The rest would be left to nature with the hope that the transplanted embryo will naturally divide and grow in the surrogate mother's womb.


PHOTO: Cheetah mother and cub at De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in South Africa (Photo courtesy De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre)


But the scientists must first overcome a serious problem - there are no Indian cheetahs. The Central Zoo Authority has been requested to procure an Asiatic breed from Iran. If that does not work out, the government is hopeful that Iran will permit the Indian scientists to collect the genetic material from its cheetahs.

Dr. Singh is not the one to give up easily, considering that he was the first Indian ever to use DNA fingerprinting to solve criminal cases. He was also the DNA expert called upon by the prosecuting agencies investigating into the assassination of the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi.

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology's foray into the world of animal cloning and wildlife conservation was purely accidental. Five years ago, the Ministry of Environment and Forests refused permission to American scientists who had visited Indian zoos to collect semen samples of animals to determine genetic diversity.


The semen samples were confiscated and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology was entrusted with the task of evaluating the extent of genetic variability existing in Indian lions and tigers.


Contrary to the conclusion by American scientists that there is no variability among the Asiatic lions in the American zoos, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has found that there exists considerable genetic diversity among lions found in India.


The cloning of nearly extinct animals is now taking place in laboratories around the world. Advanced Cell Technology announced earlier this month that it has reached an agreement with the Spanish government to clone the extinct bucardo mountain goat.


To try to recover the endangered giant panda, in June 1999, Chinese scientists produced an embryo of a giant panda using cloning technology. Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences introduced the cells of a dead female panda into the egg cells of a Japanese white rabbit.

Some environmentalists question the purpose of bringing back extinct animals when much of their habitat has been lost. Critics also say that reliance on cloning may lead to complacency about the destruction of habitats and other threats to endangered species.


Other critics say that cloning will simply place a few cheetahs in cages in zoos and the expensive process has little to do with restoring biodiversity. The money would be better spent on habitat conservation, they advise.


SOURCE:


http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2000/2000-10-24-01.asp



4)



India to clone cheetah

Monday, 16 October, 2000, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK; BBC NEWS

India had its own cheetah 50 years ago


India is to spend over $1m attempting to clone a cheetah which vanished from the subcontinent 50 years ago.

A team of scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in the high-tech city of Hyderabad hopes to make the animal copy within five years.


The researchers will employ techniques similar to those used by American scientists, who are in the process of cloning an endangered Indian wild ox.

The ox, which has already been named Noah, is expected to be delivered by a cow in November.


Lepard surrogates


"Biotechnological intervention for the long-term conservation of species is a sound and most modern way of saving species that are headed towards extinction," the team leader, Dr Lalji Singh, was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper.

Dr Singh and his team will take the genetic material from live cheetah cells and fuse it with empty leopard eggs. Any resulting embryos would then be carried to term in leopard surrogates.


The big problem facing the project is the absence of live cheetahs in India from which to source the DNA - the last Indian cheetah was shot by a hunter in 1953.


So, Dr Singh has requested the Central Zoo Authority and the External Affairs Ministry arrange for the import of a live specimen from Iran, where Indian cheetahs are still found in the wild.


Many attempts


"Any gender will do, but we need the animal very quickly," he said. Dr Singh is a DNA expert and was the first scientist in India to use DNA fingerprinting to solve criminal cases.


Wildlife experts in India are sceptical over using cloning to help conservation.


Gajendra Singh, a big cat expert, said the technique was expensive and tediously long. He also questioned the wisdom of bringing back the cheetah in a country where there was very little open scrubland left on which the cat could roam freely.


Cloning animals is generally regarded as a difficult and often haphazard procedure, with many attempts needed to get a successful birth.


SOURCE:


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/974858.stm



5)


ALSO SEE:



Cheetah Reintroduction in India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah_Reintroduction_in_India



6)



ALSO SEE:



Asiatic Cheetah

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asiatic_Cheetah


Cheetah

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah



'Spot Bot News' for "Cheetah"

Science and Conservation News by Spot Bot

http://www.bigcats.com/spotbotnews?search=cheetah&page=0


7)



RELATED NEWS ON ASIATIC LIONS IN INDIA:



In India, a (Asiatic lion) lion conservation success story turns into political issue


By Rama Lakshmi

Washington Post Foreign Service

Monday, May 17, 2010



GIR, INDIA -- With their paws and mouths bloodied from a feast, three sandy-brown lionesses sauntered toward a water hole as the setting sun pierced the trees and the birds grew quiet.



PHOTOS:


"The lion is our king," said Lakshmiben Ulwa, 54, who belongs to the Maldhari community of cattle rearers that lives in the Gir sanctuary.(Rama Lakshmi - Washington Post)


The Gir park is the world's only habitat for free-ranging Asiatic lions.(Rama Lakshmi - Washington Post)



The forest ranger turned down his walkie-talkie and whispered, "They are fresh from a kill."


The sprawling, deciduous Gir forest is the only habitat in the world for the free-ranging Asiatic lions, a species similar to its well-known African cousin. At one time, the Asiatic lions spread from the Tigris River valley to the Indian subcontinent, but now they are found in the wild only in Gir, in the western Indian state of Gujarat.


That fact is a point of immense pride in Gujarat, where the lions were once close to extinction and today number more than 400. But this rare big-cat conservation success has turned into a political hot potato, with the fate of the lions -- featured standing back to back in India's national emblem -- caught up in ethnic pride and arguments over how best to protect them.


GR2010051603696.gif


Conservationists say that the lions are at risk because the entire species is cloistered in one pocket of forestland and inbreeding is widespread. They want to move some of Gir's lions to another state.


Gujarat does not want to part with its lions.


"People of Gujarat state are very emotional and possessive about the lions," said Sudhir Chaturvedi, the chief conservator of forests at the lion habitat. "The lion is a source of our pride -- there is a personal connect with the lions. We cannot trust others to care for them like we do here."


'Sitting on a time bomb'


In the early 1900s, the lions were close to extinction, with just 20 left in the wild because of relentless trophy hunting. But after authorities banned hunting, declared the habitat a protected lion reserve, built up a robust prey base and moved out scores of forest-dwelling families, the lion population grew steadily. A count last month put their total at 411.


"The Gir lion story is clearly one of our crowning conservation successes. The problem is that all the eggs are in one basket now. We are sitting on a time bomb. Entire decades of conservation gains can be wiped out by any catastrophe like disease, drought, fire or war," said Ravi Chellam, India director of the Wildlife Conservation Society.


More than a decade ago, officials proposed moving some of the lions, and India has spent more than $3 million to prepare a large park called the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.


But Gujarat resisted. So conservationists went to the Supreme Court in 2007 arguing to move five lions from Gir, citing such dangers as an outbreak of canine distemper in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in 1994, which killed 30 percent of its lions within weeks. The court's arguments are in the final stage.


Gujarat's officials say that they have worked very hard to save the lions from extinction.


Chaturvedi took a dig at the other Indian wildlife parks, saying that they have been unable to protect their dwindling tigers, now totaling a mere 1,411. "Let those who ask for our lions focus on the disappearing tigers first. If they cannot protect their tiger population, how will our lions be safe there?"


THIS STORY

Jairam Ramesh, India's environment and wildlife minister, even offered tigers to Gujarat as an incentive to part with its lions, but without any luck.


Many analysts say that Gir's big cats descend from a handful of lions and make up a limited genetic pool. Iran, the only other country with a captive breeding population of Asiatic lions, refused to help India introduce much-needed genetic diversity.


Population spilling over


Meanwhile, Gir can no longer contain its growing numbers of lions.


In the past four years, lions have begun dispersing naturally into newer areas, traveling along streams, grassland and farms. Gujarat's forest officials say this is creating a satellite lion population that would insulate them in the event of an infection. But advocates of translocation say that this does not provide adequate geographical isolation.


Some lions fall into open village wells in the dark and die. Many farmers say that the presence of lions keeps a check on the blue bulls that destroy their crops.


Instances of man-lion conflict are rare.


Inside the Gir sanctuary, there are 375 families of Maldharis, a traditional forest-dwelling community of vegetarian cattle rearers. Their cattle are routinely hunted by the lions.


"We never get angry at the lion. The lion is our king. It is our duty to see that its stomach is full," said Lakshmiben Ulwa, the 54-year-old matriarch of a door-less, mud hamlet.


But that bonhomie may not last.


Two weeks ago, in a rare incident, a sub-adult lion was axed to death by three woodcutters in Mandalpara village, a few miles from the sanctuary. The lion had attacked seven farm laborers.


"As the number of lions rise, they will spill over and conflict with humans will rise. Nobody wants a lion in their back yard," said Ritwick Dutta, the attorney for the translocation advocates in the Supreme Court case. "But Gujarat state wants a monopoly over the lions and does not want to part with even five lions."


During last month's census operation, Gir officials asked for 120 volunteers. They were flooded with 800 applications from people ready to forgo a week of school and office to do their bit for the lions.


Jagrut Rindani, a 31-year-old member of the Asiatic Lion Protection Society, was among the volunteers.

"As a wildlife enthusiast, I understand the concerns about an epidemic hitting our lions. But the lion is Gujarati pride. My heart is saying our lions should not go anywhere, but my mind is saying something else," he said.


SOURCE (2 Page Article):


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/16/AR2010051602989.html?sid=ST2010051602992

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/16/AR2010051602989_2.html?sid=ST2010051602992

Also available at:

http://www.star.com.jo/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18878&catid=46:environment&Itemid=127




Keywords: Indian Cheetah, Asiatic Cheetah, Iranian Cheetah, Cheetah, reintroduction, India, Iran, Persia, Wildlife, Conservation, breeding, Critically Endangered, subspecie, animal, insitu conservation, exsitu conservation, preybase, captive breeding, cryopreservation, liquid nitrogen, translocation, research, study, wildlife management, biodiversity, protected area, wildlife sanctuary, national park



DISCLAIMER: POSTED FOR RESEARCH AND INFORMATION PURPOSE ONLY

************************************************************

For more information on critically endangered Asiatic Lions please also visit:

Asiatic Lion Group:
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113785485323959


Asiatic Lion Group Links Section:
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links
Asiatic Lion Group Links on Asiatic Lions, Click on "Folders" for more links:
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links/Folder_Indian___Iran_001158077222/
Why Should some 10 or 15 lions be sent to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, as soon as possible, please check in " Madhya Pradesh Folder":
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links/Folder_Indian___Iran_001158077222/Details_on__KUNO_Wil_001158438437/
Gir Sanctuary,
"Gujarat Folder" :
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links/Folder_Indian___Iran_001158077222/Details__GIR_Nationa_001158438899/

ASIATIC LION "CRISES" in India (Please see all links collected in this folder)
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links/Folder_Indian___Iran_001158077222/ASIATIC_LION__CRISES_001175900857/

Atul Singh Nischal
atulsinghnischal@yahoo.com

Life Member, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) (http://www.bnhs.org/)

Life Subscriber, World Wide Fund for Nature / WWF-India (http://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/index.cfm)

ASIATIC LION GROUP

http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/

Asiatic Lion Yahoo Group Messages & Links are accessible to all:http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/messages

Asiatic Lion Yahoo Group Links
http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links/Folder_Indian___Iran_001158077222/

http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Asiatic_Lions/links





Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comments:

At 3:49 AM, Blogger prassanna said...



Thank you so much! That did the trick, you saved me more endless hours of searching for a fix.



Jaipur Walkie Talkie Dealers

 

Post a Comment

<< Home