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South China Tiger

Overview

  • Status
    Critically Endangered
  • Population
    believed to be extinct in the wild
  • Scientific Name
    Panthera tigris amoyensis
  • Habitats
    Southeast China-Hainan Moist Forests

The South China tiger population was estimated to number 4,000 individuals in the early 1950s. In the next few decades, thousands were killed as the subspecies was hunted as a pest. The Chinese government banned hunting in 1979. By 1996 the population was estimated to be just 30-80 individuals.

Today the South China tiger is considered by scientists to be “functionally extinct,” as it has not been sighted in the wild for more than 25 years.

A better road ahead for wild tigers

Earlier this year, WWF estimated an increase in the number of tigers worldwide, up to 3,890 in 2016 from an estimated 3,200 in 2010. But success to date is tenous: According to a new report from WWF, tigers now face a threat far greater than many we’ve tackled before: linear infrastructure.

A young Sumatran tiger in Bukit Betabuh Protection Forest

Why They Matter

  • South China tigers are a reminder that the threat against the world’s tiger is an urgent one. Today, South China tigers are found in zoos and in South Africa where there are plans to reintroduce captive-bred tigers back into the wild.

Threats

  • Population believed to be extinct in the wild
  • Extinction Risk Critically Endangered
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Hunted as Pests

Although China outlawed tiger hunting in 1979 and declared the South China tiger's survival a conservation priority in 1995, it is thought that even if a few individuals remain, no existing protected areas or habitat are sufficiently large, healthy or undisturbed enough to sustain viable tiger populations.

Habitat in Pieces

If any South China tigers remain in the wild, these few individuals would be found in montane sub-tropical evergreen forest of southeast China, close to provincial borders. The habitat is highly fragmented, with most blocks smaller than 200 square miles and not large enough to sustain a tiger population.

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