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

Tiger breeding at Shanghai Zoo:

Shanghai Zoo obtained its first South Chinese tiger in 1959 and the first successful breeding occurred in 1968. They since claim more than 100 births, of which 60 tigers have survived. With more study, funding, and advanced breeding methods the zoo hopes survival rates can be increased to 90%.

Shanghai Zoo's six-year-old South Chinese tiger, Le Le has given birth several times. Her first pregnancy resulted in one cub, but a lack of experience meant she did not nurse her offspring. This is not unusual amongst first-time mothers so after eight hours the cub was removed by keepers and hand raised.

The usual hand-raising process was followed:

    • The umbilical cord was disinfected.
    • A general examination performed.
    • The cub was supplied with 0.5% glucose.
    • Milk feedings were every four hours.
    • Supervision was given 24 hours a day.
    • Assistance provided with excretion.

    With this type of care the cub put on 30-50 grams of weight per day. After one and a half months minced meat was offered. At three months the cub weighed nearly 7 kilograms and was eating without assistance. Soon after he was returned to the tiger compound.

    LeLe then produced triplets in early June 2000. The three cubs, one male and two females, were successfully fed by their mother and healthy. Her latest pregnancy resulted in twins, (August 2001), and this brings the zoo's tiger population to fourteen.

    While a success, (LeLe and her partner Kang Kang have produced seven cubs in two years), this is also an example of the problems of lack of genetic diversity. Kang Kang, the cub's father, is also Le Le's brother and issues of inbreeding will expose the offspring to various health risks. As inbreeding continues down the generations its effects worsen.

    Risks of illness:

    Major illness in the captive South Chinese tiger population could reduce numbers significantly.

If a severe enough illness and number of deaths occurred in the captive bloodline there may be no possible hope of recovery for the subspecies. Inbreeding would accelerate and extinction would be inevitable.

A major loss nearly occurred in quite recent times when 11 cats at Shanghai Zoo (six of these being South Chinese tigers) had reduced appetite, vomiting, and diarrhoea with blood.

The preliminary diagnosis was that these animals were infected by an unknown virus and the six South Chinese tigers, along with two Bengal tigers, were transferred to a veterinary centre as they were in a grave condition.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV):

Samples of blood and faeces were collected and showed that the cats to be infected with Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). Treatment for this required antiserum and vaccine which the zoo did not have on hand and there was a delay while this was obtained.

Once the vaccine was available all the zoo's cats were vaccinated, including those which had shown no symptoms. It took more than two weeks before the sick animals were out of danger and all but three South Chinese tigers were able to be returned to their enclosures.  

This was the first report in China of big cats infected by CDV; there have been several cases in America and Tasmania with a mortality rate as high as 30-50%.

Fortunately no tigers died on this occasion, however the loss of six animals would have seriously depleted the gene pool and caused the species to take another giant leap towards extinction.

Other concerns:

Many experts consider too much emphasis is being placed upon captive breeding of the South Chinese tiger. This seems to have become the primary goal for the subspecies, with conservation in the wild taking something of a back seat.

The South Chinese tiger breeds readily in captivity and there is no reason to expect that the progress made to date will not continue. Since reintroduction of big cats into the wild presents such great challenges it is considered of the greatest urgency that the few remaining wild South Chinese tigers are given top priority. 

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 Shanghai Zoo (Photo 2).
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