Endangered Species Profile: The South China Tiger.
So, what exactly IS the South China Tiger?
The South China Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), alternatively known as the Amoy Tiger or the Xiamen Tiger, is the third smallest subspecies of Tiger, behind the Sumatran and Bali Tiger's. Interestingly, South China Tigers are widely believed to have been the original tiger subspecies that all other tiger subspecies evolved from. South China Tiger's differ from other Tiger's in terms of their physical appearance; their comparatively light orange fur is striped with broad black stripes, that are both broader and spaced further apart than other tiger subspecies. The stripes that mark their faces are completely unique, and are often used as a tool to tell them apart from each other. Although they are the third smallest subspecies of tiger, male South China Tigers still measure in at an impressive average of eight feet in length, and 330 pounds in weight. While female South China Tigers are smaller than their male counterparts; measuring in at an average of 7.5 feet in length, and 240 pounds in weight. As their names suggest, South China Tigers used to be found in the Southeastern Chinese provinces of Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong, below the Yangtze River. Their preferred habitat consists of montane sub-tropical evergreen forests, rugged mountains, and they require the presence of a constant water flow. As hunters, South China Tigers are extremely powerful and patient, they will often devote hours towards stalking their prey, or they will utilize their powerful swimming skills towards entrapping their prey. Their preferred diet normally consists of deer, wild boar, cattle, and goats, although they have been known to prey on monkeys and birds. South China Tigers live solitary lives, choosing to traverse their territory alone, unless it is mating season. Female South China Tigers can give birth to up to 5 cubs; which are born completely blind and helpless. The offspring of a South China Tiger lives and depends on their mother for the first 18 months of its life, afterwards going out to hunt for themselves.
The South China Tiger as a Critically Endangered Species:
Sadly, the South China Tiger is currently considered as one of the top ten most critically endangered animal species on Earth, which makes it the most endangered subspecies of Tiger. Today, there are approximately only 90 South China Tigers left in captivity, all of which were descended from six original wild South China Tigers. The South China Tiger is actually considered to be "functionally extinct" by scientists, because there has not been a confirmed sighting of the South China Tiger in the wild for over 25 years (however, it is widely believed that a small handful of South China Tigers, 10-30, are still surviving in the wild.). The precarious situation that the South China Tiger now finds itself in, wasn't always the case. In fact, in the early 1950s, there was estimated to be 4,000 South China Tigers roaming the Southeastern Chinese provinces of Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong. However, the next few years saw the South China Tiger hunted to the brink of extinction, due to the Chinese people considering them to be a "pest". It was only in 1979 that the South Chinese government granted protection to the now critically endangered South China Tiger. There have been plans by animal conservationists to reintroduce the South China Tiger into the wild.
South China Tiger Awareness Video.
What threatens the survival of South China Tigers?
There are three main contributing factors towards the South China Tigers steady decline into extinction; illegal poaching, habitat loss, inbreeding, and shortage of natural prey. Ever since 1979, it has been illegal to hunt and kill tigers. However, illegal human poachers disregard these laws, and traverse the Southeastern Chinese jungle to hunt and kill South China Tigers for their pelts- which are used as rugs- and bones and body organs that are used to make traditional Chinese medicine.To make matters worse, the South China Tigers appear to find their habitat disappearing from right under them. Incredibly, it is estimated that 99 percent of China's original forest habitat has been destroyed. With the leading causes being agricultural expansion, logging, industrial expansion, and new roads. With this loss of habitat, brings the loss of the South China Tigers natural prey, such as types of deer, and wild boar. Lastly the very dangerous reality of inbreeding threatens the survival of the South China Tiger. Considering how all of the today's estimated 90 captive South China Tigers were bred from six original wild South China Tigers, there is little, to no genetic diversity between the world's remaining South China tigers. This is detrimental to the subspecies chances of survival, because inbreeding stunts the ability for genes to adapt to their surrounding environment, and as Professor Deng Xuejian from the Department of Biology of Hunan Normal University said "The inbreeding may lead to genetic freaks, low survival rates, and poor physical makeup." For the survival of the South China Tiger to reach a stable condition, their population would have to number at least 1,000.
How YOU can help protect the South China Tiger:
Although the South China Tiger is critically near the point of extinction, there is still hope it can be rehabilitated in the wild, and thrive once more. In South Africa, the organisation; Save China's Tigers, is busy breeding South China Tigers for the purpose of reintroducing them to the South Chinese wilderness once more. To help Save China's Tigers in their worthy cause, please consider donating to them or WWF; who also work towards protecting South China Tigers (both links provided below). Another way that you can assist the South China Tiger in their ongoing struggle, is to appeal to the Chinese government to make the reintroduction and further protection of the South China Tiger an ongoing priority. This would mean, South China allowing for suitable reserves for the South China Tiger to inhabit, and strongly enforcing laws that protect the South China Tiger. Ways to put pressure on the Chinese government to fulfill these conditions is to sign and share petitions that directly ask them to fulfill these conditions. To find petitions, search up petition websites such as Care2.