South China tiger

Conservationists estimate that there are less than 400 tigers left in China today. These tigers are members of three sub species: Bengal, South China and Northeastern (or Manchurian, similar to the Siberian tiger). The rarest are the South China tigers. The number of Bengal tigers in China is unknown if there are any. They may live in Xishuangbanna Autonomous region in the Yunnan Province along the Myanmar and Laos border. The now extinct Persian tiger once roamed as far east as Xinjiang in western China.

A man named He Guangwei, who lives in Mengxian County on the Yellow River in Henan Province, reportedly made his living by catching tigers and other large animals barehanded using martial arts techniques. In his 50 year career he has reportedly caught 230 leopards, seven tigers, 700 wild boars and 800 wolves. If attacked he advises people to go for the face. "You have to kick the animals quickly and hard in vulnerable places like the ears and belly," he says. "But this usually kills the animal, so I don't do it unless my life is at stake...A quick hard blow will make its eyes water, and it stops to rub them, but the blow must be sharp and accurate — if several blows aren't effective, you're in trouble.”

Although China's wild tiger population is tiny, thousands of the animals are bred in captivity each year. Forestry bureaus are responsible for conservation and receive the bulk of funds related to this end. China's tiger farmers, who have bred more than 5,000 animals, are pushing for a relaxation of the ban on the trade of tiger parts in the hope of selling bones and penises for traditional medicine. Siberian Tiger Forest Park in Harbin has more than 700 Siberian tigers. Part of their “survival training? involves setting loose a calf and then releasing a half dozen tigers to chase it down. Tigers Wikipedia article on the South China Tiger Wikipedia ; Save China’s Tigersavechinastigers.org ; South China Tiger in Africa Video YouTube ; National Geographic article on Saving the South China Tiger nationalgeographic.com ; Fake Photos chinadaily.com.cn ; Indian Tiger indiantiger.org ; South China Tiger Info lion_roar.tripod.com ; On Wild Animals in China: Living National Treasures: China lntreasures.com/china ; Animal Info animalinfo.org ; ARKive (do a Search for China or the Animal Species You Want) arkive.org Animal Picture Archives (do a Search for the Animal Species You Want) animalpicturesarchive Animals Asia Campaign to Help Animals animalsasia.org ;

South China Tigers

range of South China tiger

The South China tiger is believed to be the oldest of all tigers and the tiger from which all other tigers descended.They are so rare that no photograph of them in the wild exists and they havn't been seen in the wild for decades. The South China Tiger These tigers have a low birth rate. Unlike the Manchurian and Bengal tigers, which are found in other countries, the South China tigers are found only in China.

South China tigers measure 2.64 meters from the end of their nose to the tip of their tail and weigh an average of 75 kilograms. Females are about 20 kilograms lighter than males. They live in forests, bush lands and grassland in mountain. areas. They like attacking from hiding places and kill their prey with their paws and teeth and eat large-and-middle-sized herbivores and domestic animals. They can be found in South Yunnan and mountain areas in South China. They are regarded as an endangered species. [Source: Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net]

South China tigers are fierce nocturnal animals. Their prey includes: roe deer, deer, wild boars or even black bears. They are good at swimming. Tigers are quite cautious and suspicious. As soon as they sense anything unusual they tend to retreat or make detour rather than take any risks. Tigers are solitary and each tiger occupies a territory of 80-100 square kilometers.

South China Tiger Numbers and Sightings

There were about 4,000 South China tigers in the 1950s, when they were fairly common in Hunan, Fujian, Guishou and Jiangxi provinces in southern China. During the 1950s and 60s many of the animals were killed in an "anti-pest" campaign of Mao Zedong and the rest have been claimed by deforestation and unregulated hunting. Today the last remaining South China tigers are found in the forested mountains of southern Hunan and northern Guandong.

There are thought to be only 25 to 50 South China tigers remaining in the wild. They live in four disconnected enclaves of mountain forest in southern China, mostly in Hunan province. It is unlikely they will survive much longer. Some think the species will die out in the wild by 2010. It was declared extinct by one conservation group in 2002,

There are only about 60 to 70 South China tigers in zoos. Some have been born at the Suzhou Zoo. A special reserve is being set up for them in southern China that was scheduled to open in 2008 as a tie in with the Olympics in Beijing.

A South China tiger was reportedly photographed by a farmer in October 2007 in a mountainous area of Shaanxi in northwest China. Many had thought the subspecies had died out in the wild. It had been a couple decades since one had officially been spotted. After close scrutiny on the Internet, many thought the photo was a fake — perhaps a paper tiger manipulated with Photoshop — created by forestry officials to draw tourists to Shaanxi. In the the photograph was determined to be a fake and the official behind it was sent to prison.

In 2009, a man in Yunnan province hunted and ate the last tiger in a nature preserve. [Source: Jessica Meyers, Los Angeles Times, October 5, 2016]

Effort to Save the South China Tiger

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South China tiger
Lahu Valley Reserve, an 81,000-acre (33,000 hectare) sanctuary and training center for the South China tiger has been set up in Free State, South Africa by a Beijing-born former fashion executive named Li Quan. The tigers in the sanctuary were born in Chinese zoos and have been placed in a 62-hectare bush enclosure, where they are taught to hunt, and then moved to a 600-hectare camp. The plan is to reintroduce the tigers in the wild — Born Free-style — and help resurrect the South China tiger in the wild in this way. The “rewilding project” has the backing of the government in Beijing and several mostly Chinese celebrities, including the actors Jackie Chan and Michelle Yeoh, director Chen Kaige and entrepreneur David Tang.

Qian is married to American investment banker Stuart Bray who has helped bankroll her “rewilding” project, which thus far has cost about $12 million. Lahu Valley Reserve is comprised of 17 former sheep farms located in a dry and dusty part of the Karoo area of South Africa. The fairly open and rocky landscape is quite different from forested areas the tigers live in in China. The Karoo area of South Africa was selected as the site of the program because China lacks the habitat and the conservation expertise to pull off such an endeavor. China was supposed to have an area ready for the tigers with sufficient habitat and game in Hunan or Jiangxi province in 2007 but as of 2008 the people that lived in the area had not been moved out.

Quan has been criticized and even ridiculed by animal conservation groups, who say the money that has been spent on the program would be better spent on saving the habitat of tigers that exist in the wild. Judy Mill of Conservation International has called Qian’s project “a circus sideshow dressed up as ecotourism” and called Qian “a wealthy dilettante” who “feels as if she has done something.”

Another tiger is named Madonna. It is not clear whether Tiger Woods or Madonna have approved the use of their names. Critics claim the project is an expensive distraction from protecting the tiger species in their natural habitat. The same criticism has been levelled at China's captive breeding of pandas and other endangered species.

Five South China tigers have been brought to Lahu Valley Reserve. All learned to hunt wild South African game and were fed freshly-shot springboks. After two years one died of heart failure and pneumonia. Another was seriously bitten by a baboon and got dangerously dehydrated. Another took some time to get over her fear of the swaying grass and often sought out a cage where she felt safe. A cub that was born had to be rescued from her mother who did not know how lick the cub dry or keep him warm.

The tigers have spent four years “learning” how to mate and to kill guinea fowl, antelope and blesbok. A ranger with the Lahu Valley project told the Los Angeles Times, the tigers “have no mother to teach them to pluck the feathers off a guinea fowl or break open a springbok, They hope to learn by trial and error. The first couple of kills have to be quite easy. Then you make the process more difficult.”

As of April 2008, three cubs had been born at Lahu Valley. The cubs were born to two females and fathered by a male tiger who appears to have been aroused to perform by the arrival of another male.

Siberian (Amur) Tigers and Manchurian Tigers

Madonna in the snow

The population of the Siberian Tiger — which can grow to three meters in length and 300 kilograms — is estimated at 18 to 22 (2010). The Siberian Tiger is officially known as the Amur tiger. Decades of poaching and logging have ravaged the population of the Siberian tiger — only about 500 still live in the wild worldwide.

An estimated 15 to 20 Manchurian tiger, called the northeastern tiger in China, are left in China with another dozen or so in North Korea. They are found in the Lesser Hinggan Ling and Changbai mountains along the Korean border. Five or six tigers have been counted in Hunchun Nature Reserve in Jilin Province in northern China. They are difficult to see the wild but can be seen in zoos in Korea, Russia and China. They may be breeding with Amur (Siberian) tigers.

The Manchurian tiger is either a close relative of or the same as Siberian tigers. They once ranged across Manchuria and Korea, with Siberian tigers living in eastern Russia. Chinese say many tigers fled to Russia because of a fires in northern China in the 1980s and 90s but have since returned. Now it is said there is so little food for the tigers they resort to eating frogs to survive.

Some say there are six surviving subspecies native to the boreal forests, or taiga, of China, Russia and Korea. These include the Siberian tigers, also known as Amur or Korean tigers, and the Manchurian tiger. But it is unclear if they are different enough from each other to qualify as subspeices.

The Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin specializes in research and breeding of Siberian tigers. At last count it had over 700 tigers. At the park tigers are thrown chickens and goats as spectators applaud.

Comeback of the Siberian Tiger in China

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “In China, the number of Siberian tigers living in the wild (far smaller than those in captivity) has been listed in government statistics at between 18 and 22 for some years, said Li Zhixing, who has worked for decades on tiger protection. Nobody knows the exact number, because the Chinese don't have tracking collars on the tigers, but Li believes there could be as many as 40 now and that the population is growing. "I personally think the number of tigers has doubled in the last decade and that the area populated by tigers has become much larger," said Li. Chinese have been amazed not only by the apparent growth of the tiger population but also by how far the felines have spread. It made headlines around China this year when tigers were seen near Jiamusi, a city 140 miles from the Russian border. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2013]

In December 2016, a member of Jilin province's forestry bureau found Siberian tiger tracks near the city of Jiaohe at the Shengli forest farm, which is located between the world's two largest Siberian tiger habitats. The China Daily reported: “The paw prints were photographed and the bureau says that based on the length of the animal's stride it is about 2 meters tall. Later, rangers who were tracking and monitoring the area around the farm found urine and hair samples, and the bodies of two wild boars. “One ranger noted, "The big one was almost completely eaten, leaving only bones, and the smaller one was half eaten."They also reported finding tracks of roe deer, a favorite food of the tiger. Wu Zhigang, of the Jilin forest research institute, said that signs of the Siberian tiger in Jilin indicate that the species has increased rapidly in number with 27 already monitored.” There are thought to be about 12 in neighboring Heilongjiang province. [Source: China Daily, January 12, 2016]

In China, More Humans Encountering Wild Siberian Tigers

Siberian tiger (Amur or Manchurian tiger)

Jonathan Kaiman wrote in The Guardian, “In 2010, Chinese authorities launched an initiative to boost numbers in the Hunchun National Siberian Tiger Nature Reserve near the country's border with Russia and North Korea. The scheme has shown promising results – the State Forestry Administration announced on Tuesday that China's wild Siberian tiger population has increased from 12 just over a decade ago to 22, according to the state newswire Xinhua. Officials hope the number will reach 40 within a decade. [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian, May 24, 2013]

Yet residents of Xigou village, part of the county-level city of Hunchun, have mixed feelings about the increase, Xinhua reported. Wang Zenxiang recounted a close encounter late in March, saying: "After hearing some noise, I thought it was my cattle coming back home. However, when I opened the door to my backyard and turned on a flashlight, I felt my breath disappear – it was a tiger." Tigers had attacked his cattle shortly afterwards, despite the fence he had erected to keep them out, he told Xinhua.

Although the tigers have not yet physically harmed any locals, two villagers said they had a narrow escape last week while looking missing cattle. "To minimise local residents' losses and prevent public backlash, Hunchun border police started a campaign to educate locals about first aid and emergency response methods in the event of a wild tiger attack," Xinhua said.

The growing number of "human-tiger conflicts" may also pose dangers for the big cats as well. "Eating livestock may cause the tigers to become more domesticated and ruin their relationship with local residents," Lang Jianmin, and official at the reserve, said. "If one of them eats sickened livestock, the entire species could be harmed." The World Wildlife Fund, which has worked with the Chinese government on the initiative, recently cited a park ranger's discovery of a deer carcass as further evidence that the area's wild tiger population is on the rise.

Siberian Tigers Attacks on Humans in China

"My father used to tell how he once helped Russians hunt tigers, but in my lifetime — and I'm almost 50 — there hadn't been tigers around here until now," Che Shiguo, a farmer from the outskirts of Jiamusi, in Heilongjiang province, told the Los Angeles Times. He saw a tiger devouring a 3-month-old calf in August. “He screamed, and the tiger ran away. "If not, I would probably have been eaten by the tiger too," Che said.

According to the Los Angeles Times: “The last time a tiger killed a human in China was 2002, and that was considered a freak incident, the result of an angry, wounded animal that had fallen into a trap. In 2006 and 2007, people were injured in tiger attacks near Hunchun, but both survived. Compared with some other subspecies, such as India's Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers are not considered dangerous to humans, preferring as they do to lurk quietly in the woods.

"We never go out into the mountains now alone. We are always in groups of two or three so there is somebody to scare off the tiger," Qi Shuyan, 46, who works on the same ranch in Jintang as Liu Xiangqing, told the Los Angeles Times. Li, the tiger expert, says attacks are relatively rare here because of Chinese respect for the tiger, revered by many as a mountain god. "There is a superstition here that a tiger will only attack you if you do something bad," Li said. "Sometimes when people encounter a tiger, they don't run, they just kneel and pray."

Che Jinxia, the last woman to survive an attack, received more than 50,000 yuan (about $8,000), a record. In the early 2000s, a woman was mauled to death by a Manchurian (Siberian) tiger in the Hunchun Nature Reserve. The tiger had been injured in a poachers trap and conservationists say it probably wouldn’t have attacked the women if it hadn’t been hurt. The tiger was found next to the woman. It’s injury was mended by a veterinarian and returned to the wild.

Siberian Tiger Attacks on Livestock in China

Between 2007 and 2010 there has been more than 120 reported tiger attacks on farm animals. Many more attacks have occurred since then and compensation has been increased. Reporting from Jintang, remote Chinese village wedged between the Russian and North Korean borders,Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “In a lifetime of herding, Liu Xiangqing had never seen cows so scared.“Normally, at 6 a.m., they would be gathered together, contentedly chewing and grazing in the dawn light. But this June morning, they were scattered through the pine scrub, pacing with agitation, their ears alert. Liu took a quick head count and realized one was missing, a 2-year-old bull. By the time the remains were located, the tail and thighs were missing, the entrails spilled in the dirt. There was a gash in the neck; claw marks raked down the torso. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2013]

“It was a sure sign: The Siberian tiger was back. "In my whole life, I'd never seen a real tiger, but I knew it couldn't be anything else," said the elfin-like Liu, 52, who grew up in this remote region. Although they weigh as much as 675 pounds, Siberian tigers are elusive creatures that slink into the forest when humans approach. Villagers learn that a tiger has been on the prowl when they spot paw prints (or pug marks, as they are known) the diameter of melons. Or, as is happening more frequently in China, they discover that livestock is missing or mauled.

“Four cows were killed in five days in May in another village near the border. One of the largest of Liu's herd, a 1,300-pound bull, lost his tail to a tiger but stayed alive by fighting back. In March, a farmer investigating a noise pointed his flashlight into the darkness and saw a tiger with claws dug into a cow. He chased it away by banging a metal bucket and setting off a firecracker.

“The Chinese government also has sought to improve the public's attitude toward tigers by compensating farmers for pilfered livestock. Liu, for example, expects to receive about $500 for the young bull killed in June. Chinese newspapers now contain a multitude of articles about tiger attacks on farms, further raising awareness.

Putin’s Tiger Blamed for Killing Goats, Dogs and Chickens in China

In early 2014, one of three Siberian tigers released into the wild by Russia’s Vladimir Putin was blamed for killing some goats in China. Ben Quinn wrote in The Guardian, “Months after it was released in the wild by Vladimir Putin, a Siberian tiger is being fingered as the culprit behind a cross-border raid that has resulted in the deaths of a number of goats in north-east China. Now, however, Chinese state media have reported local authorities as claiming that the tiger, known as Ustin, has killed two goats. Three others are still reported missing, according to the official Xinhua news agency. According to a witness, the dead goats’ skulls had been crushed with puncture holes “the size of a human finger clearly visible”.[Source: Ben Quinn and agencies, The Guardian, January 25, 2014]

Ustin reportedly crossed into China in October with another of Putin’s tigers, both of which carry tracking devices. It is not the first time that the tigers have been accused of killings after crossing from Russia to China. Another of the big cats, known as Kuzya, was alleged in October to have attacked a henhouse in north-eastern China, raising concerns that farmers might hunt it down. On that occasion, the alleged victims were five chickens at a farm in Luobei county, Heilongjiang province. Xinhua did not say how Kuzya was identified as the culprit, although she had been fitted with a tracking device that had previously signalled that she was entering China.

In December 2014, Kuzya—one of the Siberian tigers—released by Putin was blamed for killing some hens and dogs in China. Ollie Gillman of the Daily Mail reported: “An endangered Siberian tiger released into the wild by Vladimir Putin has continued its killing spree, feasting on a pet dog. Kuzya was filmed devouring the hound for two hours on Heixiazi island, which sits on the Amur river between Russia and China. The beast, who has also killed a flock of chickens on its rampage across north-east China, is now believed to have returned to Russia. Kuzya, seen wearing a GPS tracking device, attacked and killed the pet dog in the early hours of December 2014, China Central Television reported. [Source: Ollie Gillman, MailOnline, December 15, 2014]

Satellite tracking showed the rare Amur cat swam across a river - evidently in search of a Chinese meal after a shortage of its staple of deer in eastern Russia. In October Kuzya, who is 21 months old, attacked a hen house in northern China, eating five chickens and infuriating farmers. Animal remains were found near the tiger's tracks, and feathers and blood near a smashed hen house. The big cat was spotted again in Taipinggou nature reserve in Heilongjiang province and some 60 cameras have been set up in a bid to track him.

The Russians alerted Beijing through diplomatic channels amid fears angry farmers might shoot the tiger. Chen Zhigang, the nature reserve director, said a Russian expert had informed him of Kuzya's location and had 'expressed hope that we can protect it'. Last month another of the tigers, Ustin, followed Kuzya into China, killing two goats, with another three going missing. The dead goats' skulls had been crushed with puncture holes 'the size of a human finger clearly visible', a witness said.

Despite the attacks, the foreign ministry in Beijing pledged that Putin's tiger would be protected, citing an existing agreement on cross-border protection of Siberian tigers. 'We will make joint efforts with the Russian side to protect wild Siberian tigers which travel back and forth between China and Russia,' spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

Earlier Russian ecologists expressed fears for the animal in China. Vasiliy Gorobeiko, deputy head of natural resources management in the Jewish Automomous Oblast republic in eastern Russia - where the tiger was roaming before he crossed the border - said China was more populated and he could be shot for worrying farm animals. 'Certainly, China will be informed about President Putin's tiger via Foreign Affairs ministry channels but time is needed for this information to reach local ecologists, and before then the tiger may well alarm the local villagers and may even suffer,' he said at the time. 'Kuzya knows how to avoid people and did so well in Russia but in that agricultural area of China, it will be hard for him.'

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Tigers in animal park

Threats to the Siberian Tiger

Many Siberian Tigers are isolated from one another by roads and railways, making it difficult for them to breed. The conservation group WWF warns that the animal may be extinct in the wild in China within three decades if current trends continue. The tiger is the group's priority for 2010. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, February 7, 2010]

The main threat to Siberian Tigers comes from economic development, which intrudes into the tiger's habitat. In some places it takes the form of roads or railways; elsewhere, it is logging, mines and frog farms. “Infrastructure construction has blocked the tiger's migration channels and the rising population density has eaten into the tiger's territory,” Wu Zhigang, of the Jilin Science Academy told The Guardian . “We must restore these channels by building elevated roads or tunnels.”

In 2009, a dead female tiger was found trapped in a snare. The trapper — a frog farmer — was caught. Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Many people in the down-at-the-heels villages near the Russian border trap other animals, which Li believes also has an effect on tigers. First of all, tigers can easily be snared in traps. More important, trapping sets off a destructive cycle of theft; if humans steal the deer and wild pigs that are the tigers' natural prey, the tigers in turn are prompted to steal the humans' livestock. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2013]

Tiger Conservation in Northern China

The Chinese government has drawn up plans for a tiger-friendly model of forestry management. The Wildlife Conservation Society is also trying to foster tiger eco-tourism in the region, partly through the launch of an annual Hunchun tiger festival. It will be expanded this year with a conservation marathon, exhibitions, forums, screenings and tiger-themed essay and art competitions. “We want to appeal to nature lovers by showing that the tiger habitat is an ideal environment,” Sun Quanhai, the local director of the society. Told The Guardian “Hunchun's forest coverage exceeds 80 percent. The local government have realized the importance of conservation and decided to make Hunchun the 'tiger town' of China.”

China marked year of tiger on the Chinese zodiac in 2010 with a multimillion-dollar scheme to protect the Amur (Siberian Tiger) funded by the Chinese government, World Bank and NGOs. In November 2010, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin agree to cooperate to save the world’s tigers and pledged to join the international effort to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2020. The scheme include acquiring land for expanded reserves, linking tiger communities, relocating residents, training local officials and reconfiguring forestry management to allow for sustainable economic use and cohabitation by predators and prey species. The survey in Hunchun and Siberia is a preliminary step that shows an unprecedented level of co-operation between China, Russia, the World Bank and conservation groups. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, February 7, 2010]

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Li credits campaigns to restore the degraded forests in China and Russia. The latter began tiger-protection efforts in the 1940s and has the largest population of Siberian tigers, between 400 and 900, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But in recent years, China has caught up and might even be moving ahead in creating tiger-friendly habitat, Li said. "Russia has fewer people than China, so it is a better place for tigers. But they are doing a lot of logging and burning off of agriculture fields after harvest, and the tigers don't like that," said Li, a native of Hunchun, the largest city in the region. "It is not hard for a tiger to jump over the barbed-wire fences at the border and come to China." [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2013]

“Although Chinese still buy illegal body parts of tigers — poached in India or killed in captivity — for traditional medicine, the wild tigers have not been hunted in China since the 1950s, Li said. In fact, hunting of all animals except rats is banned in China. "Getting rid of the traps is absolutely critical to making a better environment for the tigers," said Li, who was making the rounds recently in the villages near the border, distributing beekeeping equipment to encourage an alternative livelihood to trapping.

“Here in Jilin province, the Forestry Ministry has designated a wildlife preserve containing 108,700 acres of spruce, pine and larch forest, the favorite habitat of the tiger. In August, scientists released 37 deer into the preserve to attract tigers as well as leopards, another endangered species native to the region. "If you want to protect tigers, you have to protect their food supply," Zhang Changzhi, a scientist with the World Wildlife Fund, which is sponsoring the project, said as he toured a preserve in Wangqing county recently. Heat-detecting cameras attached to trees attest to the success of the project; they have produced three photographs of leopards and one of a tiger.

“Chinese efforts on behalf of the Siberian tiger have won worldwide praise among environmentalists. A 2010 report in the journal of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies compared China's preservation efforts favorably with India's and ventured that China might even earn the right to claim it "saved the tiger." Describing a conservationists looking for tigers around Hunchun in the slopes and valleys near the North Korean border, Jonathan Watts wrote in the The Guardian, “Taking turns to act as human ploughs, Liang Jianmin and his tiger survey team forge through mile after mile of knee-deep snow in the mountain forests near China's frozen mountain border with Siberia. From dawn to dusk they track, looking for droppings, paw prints, bark scratchings, scraps of fur caught on twigs and fences, any sign that the Siberian Tiger. In the first week, the team found a piece of tiger fur caught on a fence, and droppings and sightings of the main prey species — wild boar and sika deer — as well as snares and traps left by poachers. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, February 7, 2010]

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Manchurian tigers feeding in an animal park

Discovery of an Siberian Tiger Cub

The first Siberian Tiger cub to be found in the wild in China in at least 20 years was found in March 2010 but died less than two days after being discovered. The Guardian reported: Early on the morning of 25 February, Han Deyou, a forester in the Wanda mountains in the northern province of Heilongjiang claimed to have discovered a wild tiger cub trapped in a pile of firewood in his yard. Afraid of its roars and aggression, he called local police and forestry officials, who fed the captive animal beef and chicken as they waited for wildlife experts from a tiger breeding center to arrive in the remote area the following morning...Authorities covered up the death, which casts a shadow over what was potentially the best conservation news the country has had for decades. [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, March 1, 2010]

“The tiger was anaesthetised with a dart, taken away and detained in the jail of the local public security bureau. Experts confirmed it was a Siberian tiger, weighing 28.5kg and thought to be about around nine months old. Regional media said the cub had probably sought shelter after being separated from its mother in the unusually deep winter snows.”

“Local authorities hailed the discovery as an “explosively” important development, according to the Northeast China Net website. There are only about 20 tigers left in the wild. According to regional media, no cubs have been found since the founding of the People's Republic of China more than 60 years ago, though conservationists say records are unreliable before the 1990s.” The discovery of the young tiger appeared to show that the animals were still breeding in the wild, the best possible news at the start of a year in which the government, World Bank and conservation groups plan to invest heavily in a new program to save the biggest cat on the planet.”

“But the case was quickly shrouded in mystery, tragedy and secrecy. Ma Hongliang, the propaganda chief of The East Is Red Forest Bureau, told the Guardian that the cub is dead, but the news has been withheld. He has advised Central China Television and other domestic journalists not to report the death because of possible negative publicity. He declined to answer questions about the time and cause of death. Experts tried their best to save the cub,” he said. “It was too weak to survive.” [Source: Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, March 1, 2010]

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Captive Tigers in China

Although China's wild tiger population is tiny, thousands of the animals are bred in captivity each year. Forestry bureaus are responsible for conservation and receive the bulk of funds related to this end. China's tiger farmers, who have bred more than 5,000 animals, are pushing for a relaxation of the ban on the trade of tiger parts in the hope of selling bones and penises for traditional medicine.

In February 2012, AFP reported: “China says it has nearly 6,000 endangered tigers in captivity, but just 50 to 60 living in the wild in its northeast. In the 1980s, China set up tiger farms to try to preserve the big cats, intending to release some into the wild. But the farms have come under the international spotlight, with some conservation groups saying they use the cats for their body parts, while media reports have exposed poor conditions at zoos and animal parks. [Source: AFP, February 7, 2012 ]

Pictures of tourists sitting on top of a strapped-down cub at a "tiger park" in Jilin province went viral on Chinese social networking in January 2014. The park promptly terminated its contract with an "on-site animal circus" which took responsibility for the incident, Chinese media reported.

In July 2016, Siberian tigers at a wildlife park in Beijing mauled a grandmother to death and wounded another when they stepped out of their car in an enclosure, a Chinese state-run newspaper said. Associated Press reported: A tiger pounced on one of the women after she got out of a private car in which she was touring the Beijing Badaling Wildlife World, the Legal Evening News reported. The second woman was injured by another tiger that leapt at her after she stepped out of the vehicle to try to help her companion, the report said. The Yanqing district government confirmed in an official microblog post that the tiger attack took place at the park, which lies at the foot of the Great Wall. It offered few details but said the injured person was being treated. Visitors are allowed to drive their own vehicles around the park, but are forbidden from getting out while in certain enclosures, the report said. A woman who answered the phone at the park refused to comment on the attack, saying only that the park was closed for two days due to forecasts of heavy rain. [Source: Associated Press, July 24, 2016]

In September 2016, China.org reported: A Siberian tiger was attacked and killed by others at Changchun Botanical and Zoological Garden in northeast China's Jilin Province. The 2-year-old female was wandering outside of its territory when the attack took place, a witness said. Liu Chang, assistant to the park director, said the exact reason remained unkown since the attack happened away from video surveillance. The tiger was the offspring of one attacker, Liu said, adding that it is possible that the former bled during the tussle, which attracted other tigers to the fight. The ambush of tigers were scared away with firecrackers after the incident. The body of the dead tiger has been kept pending further investigation by the local forestry department. The park now has eight tigers that are all caged except for one that is allowed to roam within a certain zone. [Source: China.org, September 9, 2016

Tiger Bones and Medicine

According to an article in China Today magazine: "The tiger is a kind of treasure. The hide of the tiger can be made into an expensive coat. The bones, the kidneys, the stomach and the penis are very valuable medicine. The medicine from the ribs of the tiger is a very good and effective medicine for curing rheumatoid arthritis."

Through the 1980s there was not a large demand for tiger parts and the stockpile of tiger parts was enough to meet the demand for traditional Chinese medicine. In the previous years the market was supplied by thousands of Chinese tigers killed as pests and threats to human life. For a while there was an even a glut of tiger bone products.

Today, there are reportedly tiger farms in Manchuria. In December, 2002, one hundred rare Bengal tigers were donated by Thailand to China. There were reports in newspapers that the tigers were going to be raised like cattle for meat. One newspaper reported that a place called “Love World” on Hainan Island planned to offer tiger meats dishes while people watched tigers roaming around. Government officials said there was no truth to the reports.

Image Sources: 1) Chinese Academy of Sciences; 2) Kostich; 3,5) Julie Chao http://juliechao.com/pix-china.html ; 4) Tooter for Kids; 6, 7) WWF

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated July 2022

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