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


Captive South Chinese tigers on foreign soil:

Though today all captive South Chinese tigers are within the confines of Chinese zoos, historically it was not always this way, and specimens were exported to be placed on display in foreign facilities.

The tiger pictured above was at Berlin Zoo during the early 1900s. It carried an unusual spot/stripe pattern. Germany had the appropriate colonial and trade links into China at that time and so was able to obtain tigers. Even after World War II Chinese tigers were still being exported to Eastern block countries.

In the early 1960s, Amoys were found in East Berlin, Prague, and various Russian zoos including Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow. Exporting only ceased in the mid-60s.

Present South Chinese tiger captive numbers:

As of February 1999, 56 South Chinese tigers were known to be in the care of 19 Chinese zoos; only half of these tigers were of reproductive age. Worse than this, claims have been made that approximately 40 of these captive specimens are old, sick or disabled.

On the upside, breeding bases have been established at Guangzhou, Suzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing. It is expected the majority of the breeding will be done at the last two locations.

Gene pool:

Each of the captive tigers descends from a tiny gene pool established through only six wild-caught tigers. They are the third or fourth generation descendents of five tigers held in Guizhou, plus a Fujian tigress. One hundred and twenty tigers descended from thirty founders would provide the required genetic diversity to sustain the subspecies indefinitely.

But the last new blood into the group came from a tiger captured for breeding purposes in 1971. Such low animal numbers have led to serious inbreeding problems and an increasing number of hereditary diseases. As mentioned on page 1 the wild population also suffers from extensive inbreeding.

South Chinese tiger sperm banks:

In recent years conservation officials have attempted to use new breeding methods like embryo transfer and artificial insemination to increase the numbers of this subspecies.  A sperm bank was set up at the Shanghai Zoo, which has eleven South Chinese tigers, but it was found that extracted sperm were inactive.

This is a strong signal that the subspecies is degenerating and the future outlook worsening. High quality sperm could be stored for some generations, and be used on a tigress at any location, but low quality sperm dies quickly.

Further hampering attempts to successfully breed this tiger is a lack of knowledge of breeding techniques and little in the way of funding. This means that even the best Asian zoos tend to be poor by Western standards.

(Continued Page 4)

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 Wang Weisheng (Photo 2)
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.