Friday, 28 March 2008

Genes and Testosterone

I managed to find a little bit of time to have a better read of the recent messages left on my blog last night. I know I am repeating myself with the same limited vocabulary here but I just want to say, yet again, that I am moved by all your messages! I want to say to all of you, both to my supporters and to my sceptics, that I thank you for leaving me messages which I really enjoy reading. I am sorry I can't reply to all of you one by one, given the limited internet access I have now in South Africa.

But I want to let you know what I feel: I feel proud of you for sharing the same sentiment for China's Tigers. I feel grateful to and protected by you to come to my defence. I feel encouraged by you with all your praises and encouragement. I feel hopeful for China's nature knowing I can count on your support. I want to let you know that I will try my best not to disappoint you - I won't give up. I would like to meet you, all of you, and I promise we will do that when we celebrate the establishment of the China Tiger Foundation. Speaking of supporters, it is always fun to see our delightful friend Dr. H. M., who despite recent troubles remains cheerful and humourous. H, being the Chief Ecologist, is the second in command at a major State Wildlife organization. He has been supportive of our efforts from the very start when he learned of our objectives of saving the South China Tiger and its habitat, using SA as a springboard for its land, game and expertise etc. He shared with us his views of the genetics issues when we spoke about our project. Through doing a study of Indian Wolves which bred to over 700 individuals from just two, the researchers has observed that there were some physically defective individuals born when the numbers reached about 300 from 2, but such defects actually disappear as the numbers further increase.

I have been informed of other similar studies before. For example, a moose (an ungulate) had prospered on an island off Greenland from just 2 individuals to 1000 in hundred years, with no genetic defects found. Also all the David's Deer are descended from a dozen or so ancestors brought out of China over hundred years ago which then thrived in Europe. H also commented that research shows that the testosterone levels of captive animals decline significantly in small confined conditions, which I had always made comparisons as free man versus prisoners. This could partly explain why the South China Tigers in Chinese Zoos have been experiencing a huge hurdle in breeding but why TigerWoods in a natural environment here in SA has been keen to mate, and successfully! Even married human males have highly reduced testosterone levels, which make them better fathers.

H's research obviously added weight to my otherwise layman's instinctive speculation, coming out of observations of animal and human species. I am pleased to know, however, that academic studies in this case support a layman's empirical observations, which has actually led to our program of Rewilding and breeding the South China Tigers in natural environment in South Africa.
March 28th 2008

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