South China Tiger
Panthera tigris amoyensis
The rapid population decline of the South China Tiger is due to two main factors:
- targeted as pests by the Mao Zedong Government which quickly resulted in thousands of deaths
- the rapid deforestation which led to loss of natural habitat
- the reduction of available prey as a result of their shrinking habitat
The South China Tiger, also known as the Amoy Tiger, used to have a population of over 4,000 individuals in the forests of Southern China during the early 1950s.
Soon afterwards, the anti-pest campaigns issued by the government encouraged the uncontrolled killing of these carnivorous animals for several decades. The 1979 poaching ban did not stop illegal hunting activities because they are still viewed as vermin that needs to be eliminated. Chaos, war, and continued human-tiger conflicts all compounded the problem of its diminishing number.
Furthermore, the use of its natural habitat for agriculture, commercial farming, and residential purposes also makes it difficult to restore its population to a thriving number.
As of 2010, there were approximately 80 South China Tigers held in captivity – most of which are in zoos or conservation centers. With an estimated range of 5 – 10 thought to be left in the wild, the lack of confirmed sightings in the wild since the late 1980s has led scientists to declare them as ‘functionally extinct’.
Weighing between 100-200 kilograms, these black-striped, yellow-furred predators are the second smallest tiger subspecies in the world. Each South China Tiger has its own unique stripe pattern that distinguishes it from other tigers.