SOUTH CHINA TIGER
Now they only exist in captivity and in zoos. In the wild, no one has seen one in almost 30 years. Some say that they have already disappeared, and others that they are still alive. The truth is that the South China Tiger, which is believed to be the ancestral root of all tigers, the national and cultural icon of China, is on the verge of total extinction. But there are groups and people who are helping them, and you can be one of them. This is their story.
Of all tiger species in the world, this is the one in greatest danger. It is estimated that in 1950 there were 4,000 in the wild, but they were victims of a murderous campaign executed by the local government that ruthlessly hunted them down, branded them as plague. To make matters worse, excess deforestation greatly reduced the number of feline prey and the relocation of human communities fragmented their habitat and the remaining populations. By the year 1982 there were only between 150-200, and 5 years later, only 30, their extinction was imminent.
Its been 30 years since one was last seen, long enough to consider that not even one is left in the wild. The second smallest tiger in the world, after the Sumatran tiger (also critically endangered) now lives in captivity. Today, you can find them in zoos, where when you see them, you will realize that humans have taken everything from them.
Read here the 4 reasons why the survival of the tiger is so important and you will understand that saving the tiger is saving your life and that of hundreds of other animals. Also, look at the profile of the Siberian tiger, the Malayan tiger and the Sumatran tiger, 3 of the 20 critically endangered species.
For 2 million years they roamed in this world, giving way to new subspecies of tigers: from Bengal, the Siberian, Indochinese, Sumatra, Malaysia, and the extinct tigers of Bali, Caspian and Javan. But the case of the feline of South China is different, there are only less than 100 in captivity which have given life to the idea of reintroducing them to their habitat. It is a controversial issue between animal protection groups and organizations. One side supports and finances the projects to return them to their original home, the other side notes that efforts are in vain, that the South China tiger is functionally extinct, and it would be better to redirect economic resources to subspecies that still have a chance. Now, the symbol of China maintains a slight hope of making a comeback, but the scenarios are very complicated. Still, Save China’s Tigers, the organization in charge of the reintroduction project, told us that they remain active with the aim of seeing them again in their natural state. The South China tiger is one of the 20 critically endangered species.
“Who wouldn’t want to save the tiger?” Li Quan, a former Gucci fashion designer, wondered. From this thought she decided to dedicate her life to saving the South China tiger. She was always interested in knowing more about them, understanding their behavior. The tiger has been in Chinese culture for more than 6 thousand years, revered as a god during all this time. If the cat dies, its habitat dies, the ecosystem and the forest disappear, she knew it when it all started. That is why she founded Save China’s Tigers, with the aim of trying to do what no one has ever proposed, an innovative action, something that many experts consider impossible: reintroducing the tiger to its natural home.
From that starting point the project takes direction. Li Quan and her team managed to get permission from the local government to move tigers from zoos in China to a 30,000-hectare private reserve in South Africa, a place called the Laohu Valley Reserve. The plan was to recreate a natural scene where tigers can live and hunt, a territory where they can become fearless predators, thus recovering the qualities that their ancestors had given them.
The ambitious Save China’s Tigers project came to life, the first cats to set foot on African soil were Cathay and Hope. Then came one of the greatest triumphs of all, the birth of Hulooo, the first tiger from South China to have been born outside the Asian country. His brothers and cousins followed, gradually increasing in number the small colony.
It is worth emphasizing that the path was not easy at all. Li Quan knew and knows how to face harsh criticism from other organizations, personal attacks and strong opposition to her dream. But not all were baseless criticism of the project, there are valid reasons that question the future of the South China tiger and its survival; factors such as: the importance of having a minimum number of them that provide a wide genetic variation, a territory in China that truly protects cats, and an environmental system in itself capable of supporting a significant population. Still, as long as there is hope, Li Quan and Save China’s Tigers will do their best to save the icon of the Asian giant, the root of all tigers, the South China tiger. If you want to know more about the project, watch this video or visit their website here.
WHY ARE THEY IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION?
Threats to this cat are shared with thousands of other species and we explain them in a general way in this article. But in the specific case of the South China tiger, the most significant are:
The South China tigers suffered an extreme and ruthless hunt by the local government for being considered a plague. They were slaughtered in the thousands. They were also killed for their skins, for being a status symbol in society, for decoration (rugs) and for hunters to display them as trophies on their walls. Also, in many Asian countries like China, traditional medicine suggested that parts of their body (such as their bones, eyes, and fangs) could heal some disease. It made them a highly valued “product” on the black market in that country.
Even though the tiger no longer exists in its natural state, these activities caused their disappearance and now threatens the plans to reintroduce them. Deforestation is a direct impact of livestock and its own food source (soy, grass). This is how it works: thousands of trees are cut down to create spaces for cattle to graze. Additionally, thousands more trees are cut down for crops and production of other food for cows, chickens and pigs. This means that greater consumption of meat generates a demand to deforest even bigger areas for more livestock. On top of all this, habitat destruction causes reductions in the population of prey of the South China tiger, which additionally, gives life to a confrontation between humans and tigers, where the felines are poisoned and killed when they hunt cattle; that if the attempt to bring them back to their original home were to be fulfilled.
The diet of the tiger in its natural state consisted of: tufted deer, sambar deer, muntjac and wild pigs; prey that were declining in population due to deforestation and illegal hunting. The lack of food for the tiger was an obstacle to its growth in its original habitat and also an impediment to its possible reintroduction to the Chinese forests.
Maybe you don’t hunt, you don’t live in China, you don’t cut down trees and you’re not a farmer, but still your habits may be jeopardizing the life of the South China tiger and the objective of reintroducing them to the wild. If we manage to make some changes in our habits, the result would have a positive environmental impact on the world’s species and also on you, on your own survival.
HOW CAN YOU HELP THE SOUTH CHINA TIGER
You can help this cat, and many other species, in several ways. Many activities in your life can finally change the critical state of the South China tiger, but maybe you don’t know them yet. Look here for a complete list of what else we can do for endangered animals. In this case, you can help them:
The purchase and demand of products made with Amur leopard skins and fur generates poaching and brings them closer to extinction. If you buy any type of clothing made with skins then you are encouraging hunting and sentencing many species to their death and disappearance from Earth. If you have any such garment in your closet, then you are complicit in having taken a life. The reduction of its demand requires actions of people and brands.
Eating meat directly influences the decrease of the tiger’s prey’s population because their habitat is destroyed to give way to agriculture, livestock and meat production that ultimately attracts tigers (if they are ever reintroduced) to hunt cattle, which exposes them to being shot by farmers. Eating less meat means having more trees, more habitat for more prey resulting in more South China tigers if the project works. It means they could no longer be surrounded by farms that now provide easy access for villagers to enter the area and hunt prey and tigers.
It doesn’t matter that South China tigers don’t live in your country, eating meat is a habit that you take to any city or country you travel. In addition, eating less meat is healthy, it is a matter of discovering new options that may surprise you with its flavor. Here are some recipes that you can prepare at home.
Specifically, there are zoos where tigers live and receive donations. In addition, there are contributions that you can make for all tigers, in general. The funds are used to educate people in the regions where the feline lives to help them understand the importance and role of the tiger in an environmental system and how the destruction of its habitat threatens its survival and also affects our own lives. Additionally, there is the organization that has the objective of reintroducing the South China tiger into its natural habitat.
The contribution you make, whether small or large, is of immense help for these cats and all the species that need protection.
You can see it this way, once or twice a month, you can choose not to buy a cup of coffee, or not go out to eat at a restaurant or buy drinks, instead, you can use that money to donate and symbolically adopt a tiger, you will receive a WWF certificate. In addition, you can buy a shirt with the photo of a tiger or other species to support causes. Many organizations allocate 100% of that money to conservation projects.
Remember before continuing that there are almost 100 South China tigers in captivity, the objective is to see this feline again in its natural habitat.
But, these actions you can take now are: reduce plastic use, avoid products that cause deforestation, eat less meat, eat less fish & seafood, bike to work, car pooling, take public transport, do not buy any type of skins or products made from exotic animals, avoid circuses (places like Sea World), do not pay or take photos with animals, get involved in what’s happening, make donations and report illegal markets.
SAVE CHINA’S TIGERS
We talked about them in this blog, Li Quan, its founder, through an innovative method intends to reintroduce the tigers of South China in their natural habitat. You can contribute for this project to be achieved
WWF – WORLD WILDLIFE FUND
The world’s leading conservation organization, protecting Nature for 50 years. On their website you can symbolically adopt a tiger, you will receive a certificate of your contribution and a stuffed animal. Think about adopting one with your friend or your family.
We hope we have managed to inform you and convince you to get involved and contribute to the cause. We ask that you please share this blog and the video with friends and family. Remember that there is a list of 20 species in critical danger of extinction followed by dozens more that could soon join and increase that list. #LifeIsDying #DontLetIt