South Chinese Tiger -- Panthera tigris amoyensis

South Chinese - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3&4: In Captivity | 5: Subspecies Description |
6: Weight & Length Figures | 7: Conservation


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Critically endangered:

The tiger at most risk of extinction is the South Chinese (Panthera tigris amoyensis), also known as the Xiamen or Amoy tiger. This subspecies has been officially categorised as Critically Endangered/D with a probability of extinction within five years or two generations. As such, it is considered China's second most important conservation species. (Number one is the giant panda).

Unless an organised programme can save the South Chinese tiger this subspecies will definitely join the Caspian, the Javan, and the Balinese tigers, all of which vanished within the span of half a century.

South Chinese tiger numbers:

Wild populations are estimated at between 20 and 30 individuals, but numbers are vague at best. A 1987 field survey reported evidence of a few tigers remaining in the Guangdong mountains bordering Hunan and Jiangxi.

Shaded Area: Historical Range
Orange Area: Present Range 


Another census was carried out in 1990 and this found evidence of approximately a dozen tigers in the 11 reserves sited amongst the mountainous areas of the Guangdong, Hunan and Fujian Provinces of South China. Then, in 1994, poachers shot the last-known wild South Chinese tiger in Hunan province. 

During the above studies no tigers were actually seen and no live tigers have been sighted by Chinese officials for more than 20 years. Most of the evidence was gathered from hunters or local villagers, a somewhat questionable source.

Forthcoming information has included:

    • The sound of a roar reported Jiangxi Province.
    • A claw taken by officials at Sichuan's Fobao forest. It has been suggested this is from a wild tiger and the area it was found in is one where wild tigers may still exist. The claw lacks the typical Chinese tiger colours, being tan with black spots instead of grey or brownish black and is still under examination to determine the true origin.

    All of this leaves experts with strong reason to doubt the South Chinese tiger is still alive in the wild. Many animal biologists  conclude that any South Chinese tigers which may still be surviving will most certainly be gone in the next 3 to 5 years.

    Genetic diversity:

    Within the presumed range of the South Chinese tiger are 21 reserves, yet the status of the tigers within them is unknown and evidence of tigers occurs very rarely.

    If we assume a small wild population remains, then as things stand at present it would only take one major epidemic to wipe out the entire group. Wild populations of the South Chinese tiger have long been known as very inbred, with this problem extending back some generations. Simply put, the number of wild tigers is too small to maintain genetic diversity. Inbreeding leads to severely lowered rates of reproduction and cub survival. It also makes the South Chinese tiger subspecies highly susceptible to illness.

    In its natural state this big cat is now considered to be 'functionally extinct'.

     (Continued Page 2)

South Chinese - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3&4: In Captivity | 5: Subspecies Description |
6: Weight & Length Figures | 7: Conservation

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Photography With Thanks To Marilyn Wagner
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