From Tiger Scat To DNA To — Hopefully — Survival.
Tiger DNA expert Uma Ramakrishnan gets special permission to wander India’s protected forests on foot, following the same trails the big cats tread. While she enjoys coming across tigers and their cubs and watching them with binoculars, those sightings aren’t the treasure she’s after.
What she loves most is to find tiger droppings — “almost like gold to me,” says the molecular ecologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore.
Territorial tigers oblige by leaving scat regularly, as a warning to other tigers that this space is occupied. These nuggets contain genetic material that scientists like Ramakrishnan use to understand tiger populations: How many are there, and what kinds? Where did they come from, and how far do they travel?
Science learns us a lot. The sqat of tigers has a lot of DNA and can give us lots of information about the tiger and its whereabouts.
Not only that, it gives also hope for the survival of this species.