FAQs

Here are the common questions about Save China’s Tigers’ Project. Please click on each question for the relevant answers.


About Chinese Tigers

  1. What are the eight sub-species of tigers? What are their current situations?
  2. How many Chinese tigers remain in China now?
  3. What is the status of the Chinese Tigers in zoos?
  4. Why should we save the Chinese Tigers?
  5. What is the attitude of the Chinese government towards the course of saving the tigers?
  6. What’s the main cause of the decline in the number of the tigers?

About Save China’s Tigers

  1. Does SCT work to save other tiger subspecies such as the Siberian Tiger?
  2. Does SCT have any kind of support from scientists? How many experts does it have?
  3. What is the budget for SCT to carry out the project?
  4. How does SCT get its money? Does it receive any donations from the society?

About the Chinese Tiger Project and the Chinese Tiger Conservation model

  1. Why not preserve the Chinese tigers by breeding them in captivity?
  2. How does a tiger hunt in the wild?
  3. What prey is the tiger provided with during its wild training?
  4. When will the re-wilded tiger cubs go back to China? How many tigers will receive re-wilding training in total?
  5. What is the so-called bottle-neck effect?

Why sending tigers to South Africa?

  1. Will the Chinese Tigers spread diseases between China and South Africa?
  2. Where is Laohu Valley Reserve? What is it like?
  3. Will the Chinese Tigers have bad effects on the eco-systems and the biodiversity in SA since they are never found in SA after all?
  4. Why not have the Chinese Tiger re-wilded in Zixi of Jiangxi province and Liuyang of Hunan province since these two places are chosen as candidate sites for later re-introduction?
  5. The Chinese Tigers are naturally accustomed to the thick forests in the mountains in China. Will the hunting abilities gained in savanna still work for them once they are re-introduced?

About the Tiger Cubs Sent to South Africa and Their Rewilding Process

  1. Do the tigers still have contact with humans, - i.e at what stage do they become 'wild'?
  2. What difficulties and dangers have Cathay and Hope encountered ever since their arrival in South Africa?
  3. What are the biggest achievements by Cathay and Hope so far?
  4. What do the tigers normally hunt & eat? - is this all they eat, or are there other species that they go after?
  5. What caused Hope’s death?
  6. Why did we send Stud Tiger 327 from China to Laohu Valley in SA and the meaning of the number?

Answers

About China’s Tigers

  1. What are the eight sub-species of tigers? What are their current situations?
  2. One century ago, there were 8 subspecies of tigers on Earth. However, 3 of them have disappeared. They are Bali Tiger, Java Tiger and Caspian Tiger. The remaining five are Siberia Tiger, Bengal Tiger, Sumatran Tiger, Indo-Chinese Tiger and South China Tiger. Because South China tigers can only be found in China, they are also referred to as the Chinese tigers. All of these five tiger subspecies are now ranked as Category one severely-endangered animals.

    Among these five, the Chinese tiger’s current situation is the most endangered. Now the remaining numbers are less than 100 in the world, about 60 of which are kept in zoos. Accordingly, the number of the Chinese tigers in the wild is probably between 10 to 30 only.

    The Chinese Tiger
    The Chinese tiger is regarded the direct descendant of the tiger ancestor. Among the 8 subspecies, the structure of its head bone is the most similar to that of its ancestor. The Chinese tiger used to live in the North and Middle Plain of China, reaching all the way west to Qinling Mountain Range. According to the internationally prestigious expert Mr. Koehler’s statistics, there were 40 thousand Chinese tigers in China in the beginning of 20th Century. Due to the preying on tigers and the destruction of their habitats, however, there was a rapid decline in the number of the Chinese tigers. In the 70s, the last wild Chinese tiger was caught and sent to the zoo. Since then, people have never seen traces of wild Chinese tiger any more.

    About 60 tigers in zoos now are the offsprings of the 6 wild tigers caught in the 50s and 60s.

    The other 4 subspecies:

    • The Siberian Tiger (also known as the North-East Tiger): The remaining Siberia tigers enjoy their territories in the conifer forests, bush and silver birch forests in Siberia. There is also a few of them living in the north-east of China. It is estimated that there are around 300 of them living in the wild.
    • The Bengal Tiger: Most Bengal tigers live in India while a few in Nepal, Bengal and Bhutan. The number of wild Bengal tigers is estimated to be from 3000 to 4000.
    • South-East Asia Tiger: Also called the Indo-Chinese Tiger, South-east Asia tiger can be found in middle Thailand, Southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and the Malaysia Peninsula. These tigers live in sparse forests in mountainous areas, which are usually borders of two countries. It is estimated that there are now about 1200-1700 wild South-East Asia tigers.
    • The Sumatran Tigers: They can only be found in Sumatra Island. Their habitat covers from plain forests to high mountains. The existing wild Sumatra tigers are believed to be from 400 to 500 in number, most of which are in the five National parks in Indonesia.

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  3. How many Chinese tigers remain in China now?
  4. Estimates of remaining wild South China tigers are between 10 and 30. Since the 1991 survey, over 2000 pieces of evidence have been gathered, ranging from traces of fur, scratch marks, pugmarks and faeces to roaring and actual sightings. However, with around 60 in captivity in Chinese zoos, and with estimated numbers in the wild, it is likely that the total number is less then one hundred left on earth.
    Some international organizations think it’s time to declare the extinction of the Chinese tigers. SCT started its cooperation with the State Forestry Administration (SFA) in 2001, inviting researchers from abroad to work with different departments of the SFA to conduct a survey on wild Chinese tigers. Moreover, SCT is continuing with its effort of supporting SFA’s projects with e.g. the infrared monitoring of in Huping Mountain in Hu’nan Province. We have not found any real trace indicating the existence of wild Chinese tiger up till now except for some clues reported by local people. However, we believe that South China tigers have not died out completely, even though we do doubt whether the existing wild ones may still have the capacity of breeding. Further monitoring in the wild is still under way.

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  5. What is the status of the Chinese Tigers in zoos?
  6. The current condition is not very promising. Some experts claim that the tigers in zoos in China would eventually die out by the year 2010 if we do not take effective steps. The estimated 60 tigers live in several zoos. Each zoo does not really have sufficient numbers thus it is unavoidable for reproduction to take place between close relatives. The consequence of this worsening phenomenon is that some disadvantaging traits in the tigers’ genes will unite and become obvious. What is worse, when being raised in artificial ways, we supply the tiger with better living conditions, we make it possible for those tigers with disadvantaged genes to survive and thus pass on such genes by taking good care of them. The following generation may suffer from deformity or poor intelligence. The tiger will inevitably die out if its generations are becoming weaker and weaker. Now the survival rate of the tiger cub is already too low.
    Besides, the space provided for the Chinese tiger in the zoo is very limited, compared to the necessary territory a wild tiger would demand. (from 15 square miles to a few hundred square miles). Living in such limited space would affect the Chinese tiger mentally and physically. This is another reason that causes the average level of the Chinese Tiger’s health to decline.

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  7. Why should we save the Chinese Tigers?
  8. The slogan of SCT is Three Tigers, “Tiger spirit, Tiger culture, and Tiger ecosystems.”

    First, Tiger is the representative of all cats. Brave and gentle, tiger serves as a perfect symbol that our Great Nature can create. It is a symbol of power and strength, a subject of awe and fear. According to the statistical survey conducted by the international television channel “Animal Planet”, tiger is the most popular animal in the world.

    Secondly, tigers and some other large carnivores play important roles in keeping the balance of the nature. As the top animal of the eco-chain, tiger’s disappearance would mean the termination of such eco-chain and the depravation of the whole eco-environment. Therefore, saving the tigers would have the same significance as saving the whole eco-environment through the restoration of the plants, forests, vegetarians etc. Such restoration is also the only means by which we can really protect the tigers together with other endangered animals from extinction.

    The third reason has to be tiger’s very deep root in Chinese culture. Archaeologists have found crafts in the shape of tiger made about 6000 years ago. According to Professor Wang Binling’s “Studies of the Chinese Tiger Culture”: records about the tiger culture started 10,000 years ago. There are also many idioms about tigers passing on throughout the generations. Without the existence of tiger, the tiger year would be of no meaning. Through the course of saving the Chinese tigers, SCT intends to bring about the renaissance of the Chinese tiger culture.

    Last but not least, we hope to correct the West’s misunderstanding of China in many aspects, especially in the aspect of wildlife conservation. Tiger is the most favorite animal in the world. Indeed there is no other animal that attracts so much attention, yet if asked for opinion about saving the tigers, any foreigner would talk about the Chinese consuming the tiger bones and the tiger penis soup. In one word, the general opinion is that the traditional Chinese medicine is killing the tigers. Not to mention other negative comments about the Chinese eating the bear gall etc. Few of them know about the Chinese saving the pandas and the Crested ibis. It is sad to see that the West does not acknowledge the achievements Chinese have gained in wildlife conservation. Through saving the Chinese tiger on an international scale, we hope to help the West see and understand the efforts Chinese have made in environmental protection and wildlife conservation. After all, the West values the cats very high. We would like the West to know about the Chinese’s determination in saving the wildlife through the Chinese tiger.

    The so-called international tiger academic circles have already declared that the Chinese tigers are doomed to die out. One should see the political interests in such declarations. They talked about the disappearance of wild Chinese tigers and the poor genes of the tigers in zoos. Based on this, they concluded that China is short of sufficient environment for the survival of tigers. In their opinion, we are better off having THEM manage the funds instead of “wasting” money on the “impossible mission”. We need to point out that we are indeed trying to save the whole eco-system through the tiger, not just to save several tigers as is what they believe to be pointless. We are saving the most precious treasure of China- the tiger culture.

    In China, the Chinese tiger campaign is playing a more and more important role in the campaign of environmental protection. The campaign will greatly influence the public’s understanding of wildlife and our mother nature. People will learn to appreciate the beauty of nature. The change of idea will contribute to the progress of China’s environmental protection. Since people living in modern cities have little chance to interact with wildlife, they are less likely to help save the wildlife and the natural environment. Once they witness the beauty of a hunting tiger, they will be more convinced of the worth of saving these wonders. Besides, the Chinese tiger is considered tiger of the eco-system, tiger of culture and tiger of spirit. Such inner beauty will be revealed more in addition to its physical beauty.

    Although some governments and international NGOs have spent some money in rescuing the tigers, what they achieved is quite limited. The remaining tigers are still threatened with extinction. We need to come up with new strategies for wildlife conservation if we are really to solve the problem. The idea is to help local people actually benefit from the tiger salvation efforts in terms of material, spiritual and cultural benefits. We must take action now because of the continuous growth of population and the consequent pressure men bring against the environment. Our model of wildlife conservation, that is to save big carnivores like tigers through rehabilitation training and re-introduction program, can also be a model to other countries since we are the first to experiment.

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  9. What is the attitude of the Chinese government towards the course of saving the tigers?
  10. Since 1990, the Chinese government has been trying to win attention and support for different subspecies of the tigers in China but suffered objections from some international wildlife conservation Organizations.

    Feared and respected by the masses, the tiger, as an integral part of Chinese culture, has always been a symbol of power in Chinese tradition and faith for thousands of years. Therefore, China is obliged to assume the responsibility of saving the tigers. The Chinese State Forestry Administration is implementing the South China Action Plan in a decisive effort to safeguard remaining numbers and to encourage further breeding in a safe environment.

    With the rapid development of China’s economy, environmental issues have become more and more acute, which are drawing close attention from the Chinese people. With the fast growing economy, people now have higher demand for the quality of their environment. The action to save the tigers in China is the most challenging task in wildlife conservation and environmental protection. Its success or failure is a matter of honour or shame to the Chinese people. China pays great attention to tiger conservation as it also understands that the tiger is an important link in the eco-system, as an indicator species for the well-being of China’s habitat and environment.

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  11. What’s the main cause of the decline in the number of the tigers?
  12. Over the past 30 years, the South China tiger has suffered from continuous and extensive hunting, deforestation of its habitat to supply the timber trade, the reclamation of agricultural land and pollution. Together with the uncontrolled hunting of prey species, this has resulted in the rapid decline of the tiger population and reduced its habitat to the hilly areas of East and South China.

    The conflict between human and the tiger lies in the nature of subsistence for tigers. Firstly, tigers need a lot of space. One tiger, even under the condition that the preys are abundant, requires at least 15 to 30 sq. km. The rapid increase in the human population divides tiger habitats into islands and small areas, which can not meet its needs. Moreover, isolated individuals could not communicate with each other, nor can they reproduce offspring. In this sense, tigers’ survival is really at stake. The second reason is that most of tigers’ preys are also what we humans need. Due to the uncontrolled hunting in the past, a lot of tigers’ preys such as boars, Sumen antelopes and sambars were hunt down to so few that tigers can not find enough food.

    The conflict didn’t become more intense until human gradually exploit mountainous areas, reclaim lands for agriculture and forestry, and build new roads due to the growth of population. All these have pressed hard upon the tiger to a dead corner, where it has no way to escape. Although determined efforts are being made to counteract the damage that has been done, the reduction in habitat has left the remaining numbers in such remote groups that a natural and rapid population increase is unlikely without human intervention.

    The tiger is now under First Level Protection according to the P.R. China Law for Protection of Wildlife – which prohibits hunting and killing - and included on the List of Wildlife under National Importance Protection. This stipulates up to a seven-year prison sentence on conviction for hunting, killing of the South China tiger or use of tiger product for commercial use or trade. The Chinese government in recent years has also started reforestation programs by restoring agriculture lands back into forest.

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About Save China’s Tigers (SCT)

  1. Does SCT work to save other tiger subspecies such as the Siberian Tiger?
  2. We have made the South China Tigers our current focus, as it is most endangered subspecies of tiger and most ignored by conservation world. We are of course championing causes for all tigers (four subspecies found in China) and big wild cats and hope to give our attention to them in due course.

    Some foreign conservation group is currently working with China on plans to conserve the Amur tiger in China. A Russian/US/Chinese team has conducted a survey, and recommended actions include opening up corridors to allow free movement back and forth between the Russian/Chinese borders, and a concentrated effort to remove existing snares and traps, and to prevent the placement of further snares and traps from existing and potential tiger habitat. Incredibly, although there is much publicised work by various wildlife organisations to save the Amur (and other) tiger, there are no other charities concerned with the South China tiger, as many of those organisations consider it to be beyond help.

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  3. Does SCT have any kind of support from scientists? How many experts does it have?
  4. SCT has enjoyed sufficient advices and support from renowned scientists. Dr Koehler, the famous American big cat expert with, rich experience in the wild, has been giving SCT great support since its foundation.

    Save China Tigers’ Tiger Management team consists of a range of experts. The Tiger Rehabilitation program is headed by renowned conservationist and Carnivore manager with over 15 years of experience at Pilanesberg National Park, Gus Van Dyk. Famous Brian Boswell advises Save China’s Tigers’ team on tiger breeding. A most respected conservation scientist of high integrity, Petri Viljoen, heads the scientific monitoring of the whole program. Ground staff includes both South African and Chinese employees. Along with the tiger re-wilding training, SCT hired SA experts to help train the staff for future Pilot Reserve to ensure the quality of management. Experts invited to survey the candidate reintroduction sites are also very experienced in this field. For example, Dr. Jeremy Anderson, the first director of Pilansburg National Park, has led many projects on wildlife re-introduction. His partner Dr. Richard Davis is a top resource economics. Both of them led the survey on the candidate reintroduction sites for the Chinese tigers.

    Meanwhile, SCT also takes advices from scientists at home. Chinese experts on field survey including Prof. Hu Defu from Beijing Forestry University and Prof. Deng Xuejian from Hunan Normal University have been supporting SCT. Our team are made up of field scientists, not theorists.

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  5. What is the budget for SCT to carry out the project?
  6. As of now, over US$8 million has been spent on the Chinese Tiger project, most of all from money contributed by Mr. Stuart Bray- Li Quan’s husband. They hope what they do is to provide seed money for the project to start. One of the key concepts is the Chinese tiger conservation model, which is based on long-term sustainability through eco-tourism as practiced successfully in many reserves in Africa. The Chinese Tiger Conservation Model will combine the African Conservation Model with unique Chinese Wildlife, and Chinese Tiger culture, using the Tiger as the umbrella. They hope that whoever will invest in the Eco-tourist operations in the Chinese Tiger Pilot Reserve will benefit not only themselves, but the local communities. In other words, the tigers will have to make money for their local communities and for themselves, in order to survive, and Li’s organization and her husband are the one who pave the road for others.

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  7. How does SCT get its money? Does it receive any donations from the society?
  8. Li Quan’s husband Stuart Bray, who was an investment banker with Bankers Trust ( later acquired by Deutsche Bank), is the main source of finance for the Chinese Tiger project. When Li Quan first set up Save China's Tigers, Li Quan had expected it would be easy to raise public funding in the West to help our Chinese Tiger Project. However, faced with hundreds of thousands of charities in UK alone, Li Quan was simply too naïve. Li’s husband initially was not planning to spend so much of their savings on the Chinese Tiger project, especially since he has left banking since 2001. However, he was encouraged by what Li Quan was able to achieve and the support by the Chinese government and believes that her Chinese Tiger Conservation Model may not be a fantasy only afterall. And if SCT does succeed, it will have profound positive impact on the way wildlife conservation is conducted in China and therefore he decides to use his savings to help Li Quan and China succeed. He also realizes that it is not possible for the project to succeed simply replying on their limited savings and therefore the couple will endeavour not only to try to raise fund publicly, but he has now returned to work, in the hope of making some money to ensure the success of the Chinese Tiger project should they not be able to raise public funding.

    Of course it is not only Li Quan and her husband’s duty to save the symbol of Chinese tiger culture from extinction. China, as well as the rest of the world should join in the course of saving the world heritage. In this sense, we call on everybody to join in the SCT’s tiger saving effort!

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About the Chinese Tiger Project and the Chinese Tiger Conservation model

  1. Why not preserve the Chinese tigers by breeding them in captivity?
  2. You may say we preserve the species to some extent by doing so. However, a species is considered biologically extinct if it has died out in the wild, even if there are some individuals in captivity. It has lost its function in nature as nature no longer has it. Those remained in captivity will have to mate among close relatives and will gradually lose their abilities for survival. This will eventually lead to the final extinction of the entire species.

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  3. How does a tiger hunt in the wild?
  4. Tigers are usually solitary hunters and their method is stalking and attacking unexpectedly. Wild tigers will choose appropriate prey. When they attack the prey, they are also very careful not to hurt themselves. After capturing the prey, they will eat as much as they can so that they do not have to feed for quite a few days.

    Tiger mothers will bring home small live prey such as antelope or deer when their s are about one month old so that they can starti learnng how to attack and kill a prey by playing. Cat cubs wean at about three months old and their moms will take them out hunting. At first the cubs only observe inhiding, and gradually they will participate in the hunt. It is very important for cubs to learn how to lurk, stalk and attack at the right time. If a cub attacks a prey beyond his capacity, it may end up getting killed itself.

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  5. What prey is the tiger provided with during its wild training?
  6. The preys needed for wild training of the tigers do not have to be the same as those in the original food chain of the tigers. Tigers’ food menu is fairly extensive: deer, antelope and wild boars etc are tigers’ primary food in their habitat. Once a tiger knows how to hunt the same sized wild animals, he won’t mind what kind of prey animal is. The very first task of tigers under wild training is learning the skills of hunting. We must make sure however that the prey are wild animals. Otherwise, they will not have enough practice to react to those wild animals when released in the wild. Domestic animals are nto sufficient to train the tigers’ speed, power and skills which are essential for hunting in the wild. If we wild trained tigers by using variety of animals, they could apply their skills into any situations and also adapt themselves to any new prey.

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  7. When will the re-wilded tiger cubs go back to China? How many tigers will receive re-wilding training in total?

  8. We hope to bring the first re-wilded tigers back to China starting 2008. We choose this for the following reasons:

    1. If Cathay and Hope breed on time (early 2006), we should have the next generation on time for return to China.
    2. I think the Olympic Game will help the Chinese Tigers’ fate by generating more awareness for them. We are promoting the South China Tiger as the Mascot of the 2008 Olympics and whether we get it or not, it will be awareness building for the tiger and for wildlife conservation as a whole.
    3. Chinese tiger pilot reserve needs years to cope with the recovering and basic construction.

    Based on the agreement between the Wild Life Research Centre of the State Forestry Administration of China and Save China’s Tigers Foundation & the Chinese Tigers South African Trust, 5 to10 Chinese tigers will be sent to S.A for breeding & wild training at Laohu Valley Reserve from 2003 to 2007. The actual number of tigers depends on the situation of their breeding in Chinese zoos.

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  9. What is the so-called bottle-neck effect?

  10. There is the word “ bottle-neck effect” in biological terminology. It means the state when some species’ fertility decline due to one reason or another and it has very low numbers. Due to decreasing quantity, mating with relatives is inevitable and will result in unhealthy offsprings who carry disadvantaged genes. Many endangered animals like cheetahs have faced the problem when their quantity is below certain number. South China Tigers and David’s deer are both faced with bottleneck effect. Now David’s deer survived thanks to the only 25 deer translocated to Europe before the People’s Republic of China was established . Had we not pulled the deer back from the bottleneck, it might have already died out. Therefore, the question now is whether we ought to pull the Chinese tigers back from the bottleneck too?

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Why sending tigers to South Africa?

  1. Will the Chinese Tigers spread diseases between China and South Africa?
  2. There is no point worrying because there are strict regulations and controls concerning international cross-boarder transportation of animals. Hope and Cathay stayed in quarantine for more than 30 days after they arrived in SA. So were Tiger Woods and Madonna. South Africa is well-known for wildlife disease control and strict veterinary guidelines. All necessary inspections include inoculation and observation in quarantine are conducted step by step. It should also be noted that there are many examples of wildlife exported and transported to Asian zoos from SA. There is also frequent exchange of animals among international zoos after careful inspection and quarantine. Save China’s Tigers have consigned the quarantine process to the South African Import & Export Quarantine Burean as well as National Animal Health Committee.

    Besides, the David’s deer of China are feeding freely on a few hectares of land within the National Zoo of South Africa right now.

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  3. Where is Laohu Valley Reserve? What is it like?
  4. Laohu valley Reserve locates near the small town of Philippolis, Free State in South Africa , with an area of 33,000 hectares. It stretches right over Orange River with 1/3 of the area in Northern Cape and the other 2/3 in the Free State. The very uniquely located reserve is made up of 17 pieces of defunct sheep farms. Therefore, it should not be too difficult to restore the habitat.

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  5. Will the Chinese Tigers have bad effects on the eco-systems and the biodiversity in SA since they are never found in SA after all?
  6. Contrary to what many people thought, there are tigers in South Africa such as in zoos. The tiger cubs we brought to SA live in the re-habilitation camp fenced around with electrified wires so that there are no interactions with local animals outside. The ultimate goal of SCT is to return the tigers to the nature back home after re-habilitating them on the land we bought in SA. In this sense, the environment is monitored and controlled as long as the wild training is under way in South Africa.

    Some people are worried that wildlife in Africa will be infected by parasites brought by our tigers. As we have answered in the previous question that detailed inspection will be conducted during the transportation to assure the safty. Even those few members from the Cat Specialist Group who are not in favor of the tiger project once claimed that they do not oppose dthe transporation of animals under certain international treaties of Cities. They said that our project bears no difference in terms of transportation with other animal transportation between zoos. Thus, we are much assured that the transfer of the tiger cubs is safe.

    Li Quan and her husband Stuart has purchased defunct 17 farms damaged by cattle’s overgrazing, for the use of the Chinese tiger project. The whole area covers 330 square kms which is now restored to a wildlife reserve. The reserve will be used for the protection of other African animals like cheetahs after the Chinese tigers are returned to China. This can be considered the contribution of the Chinese tiger to the biodiversity of South Africa. Without the Chinese tigers, we would never think of purchasing the land for the project in SA.

    On the other hand, the menu of tiger and lion is alike. There should not be any side-effort to the local ecology.

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  7. Why not have the Chinese Tiger re-wilded in Zixi of Jiangxi province and Liuyang of Hunan province since these two places are chosen as candidate sites for later re-introduction?
  8. Although the chosen candidate sites are relatively better in terms of resources, their current status does not allow us to send the tigers for re-habilitation training.

    First of all, there are still residents living in these areas. We need time and money to relocate them and restore the land. In comparison, the project can be carried out immediately in SA. Considering the predition of “extinction before 2010” by some experts, we know the Chinese tigers can not wait that long.

    Secondly, Although the sites will become appropriate habitat for tigers after being restored which will take time, it is still not suitable for the re-habilitation training since staff can not even observe and track tigers conveniently due to the terrains. Monitoring of the tigers closely is very important during their training.

    Lastly, if there is no South African part of the project, there would not be any re-introduction of the Chinese tigers back in China.

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  9. The Chinese Tigers are naturally accustomed to the thick forests in the mountains in China. Will the hunting abilities gained in savanna still work for them once they are re-introduced?
  10. As to the environment, the kind of plants does not matter very much. What matters is whether these plants can provide cover to the Chinese tigers. Africa is the home to many cats. There used to be forests in Africa which gradually dried up with climate change and open plains came into existence. Cats gradually learned to hide themselves in high grass. For example, lions slowly approach the prey using cover and launch a sudden attack. Thus, it does not matter whether the cover is a wall, forest or plain. In Kenya, some cheetahs have even learned to hide behind jeeps thanks to large number of tourists. As to whether the Chinese tiger is mountain animal or plain animal, Prof. Defu Hu from Beijing Forestry University once conducted some surveys. According to him, tiger, like we human being, prefers living on the plain to climbing up to the mountains. Yet human beings have occupied most of the plain. Tracing back to thousands of years ago, paddy fields and corn fields nowadays must have been the plain to tigers. Tigers used to live in northern and central part of China. There is folktale saying that the reason why tiger does not like trees is because it is afraid of the bird shit. All in all, tiger is very adaptable so it has been seen under a lot of conditions. Chinese hunters also used to look for them in stone caves.

    As to food, the five remaining tiger subspecies from the northmost Siberian tiger to the southernmost Sumatran eat differently despite of their similar behaviour. However, the necessary hunting skills are the same to all of them. Therefore, if the Chinese tiger learn to capture different antelopes in SA, it will know how to hunt once they return. The key in the re-wilding training is to help them regain their abilities. It does not matter whether the prey is an antelope or a Chinese deer.

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About the Tiger Cubs Sent to South Africa and Their Rewilding Process

  1. Do the tigers still have contact with humans, - i.e at what stage do they become 'wild'?
  2. The tigers do not have direct human contacts with the tigers (as in hands on). We monitor them daily from a vehicle, mostly outside their enclosures. From time to time we do drive into the larger enclosures in order to get a closer look at them. Since Hope's death, we continue to monitor their well-being and health even more frequently. When they are fed, they are given an entire antelope carcass. They are closed in one of the camps and the carcass is dropped off in an adjacent camp. Once the people and vehicles are outside the enclosure, the interleading gate is opened to allow the tigers to get to their food. One must constantly be aware of how vulnerable these animals are. They are 10th generation zoo-born tigers, their off spring could one day be considered “wild”.

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  3. What difficulties and dangers have Cathay and Hope encountered ever since their arrival in South Africa?
  4. The two cubs, especially Hope, did encounter a lot of dangers and difficulties in their new home. Upon Hope’s arrival in SA, the skin disease, Ring Worm (tinea circinata), he had back home in China recurred. After quite an unpleasant period of treatment, he got attacked by a group of baboons which sneaked into the training camp. His back leg was badly bitten with a wound of 10cm longand received about 30 stitches. When he grew new teeth, he got infections in his mouth which even affected his throat. However, all is in the past. Now Hope has grown into an imposing tiger.

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  5. What are the biggest achievements by Cathay and Hope so far?
  6. On July 25th 2004, they caught their first ever bushbuck and ate it. After all the trials and efforts we had made, we knew we were on the right track seeing this happening. Peter released 3 blesboks into the tiger camp on December 23rd. Both Cathay and Hope chased after them at their top speed, and kept wrangling with them. After they successfully killed the first blesbok, they turned to attack another one. The big blesbok was forced to a dead cornor. One after another, two tigers killed these three blesboks in a very short time. Blesbok is middle-sized antelope. Being able to kill live mid sized antelopes, it was definitely the biggest achievement for Cathay and Hope.

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  7. What do the tigers normally hunt & eat? Is this all they eat, or are there other species that they go after?
  8. Blesbok is a most commonly found antelope in the area where we are located. It is off course a typical species found in the area. We have reintroduced a number of indigenous wildlife species when we started restoration work to establish Laohu Valley Reserve and blesbok is one of these species. The blesbok is also relatively comparable in size to some of the deer that tigers traditionally hunt . From time to time the tigers at Laohu also catch smaller prey that occur naturally in their camps such as hares, guinea fowl and even the occasional porcupine and aardvark.

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  9. What caused Hope’s death?
  10. Following the death of Hope, one of the highly endangered South Chinese tigers in August 2005, the post-mortem showed that the primary cause of death was pneumonia and heart failure. Samples were obtained at the post-mortem and submitted to two independent laboratories in South Africa. The results from both laboratories indicated that the underlying causes of Hope’s death were neither bacterial nor viral.

    They concluded that the tiger was suffering from immunosuppression, supported by the presence of opportunistic bacteria that are normally only found replicating in animals that are immune compromised.

    In lay terms, this means that common bacteria, which are usually relatively harmless, became problematic when Hope's body was unable to deal with the infection and that this infection, which contributed to his death, was a secondary event

    In many respects there are no clear answers from the laboratory results, but the indications are that genetics played a major part and that Hope was possibly not a strong individual. Unfortunately, nature maintains its balance by the survival of the fittest or healthiest animals and Hope was simply not strong enough to combat opportunistic infections.

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  11. Why did we send Stud Tiger 327 from China to Laohu Valley in SA and the meaning of the number?
  12. The project lost their older male tiger, Hope almost two years ago and since then his mate Cathay has been showing signs of sexual maturity. Unfortunately the younger tigers, TigerWoods and Madonna, are not yet ready to mate. “Losing our male tiger delayed our breeding program, but now we are back on track with the arrival of this new stud male” said Ms Li Quan, founder of Save China’s Tigers. A spacious new facility the “David Tang Tiger Breeding Centre” has been purposely built within the rewilding reserve for the stud tiger as well as future tiger cubs. “We hope it will be more conducive to breeding than some other facilities so our appeal patron David Tang, after whom the Center is named, will be proud,” said Li Quan. The female tiger, Cathay, will gradually be introduced to him after the male has settled down in this new environment, which takes about two to six months, and their progress will be closely monitored to give the two tigers the earliest chance to mate. If all goes well, the first South China Tiger cubs are expected to be born early 2008.

    The stud male-registered as No. 327 in the Studbook Registry, does not yet have a name. In the first two weeks, 327 has adapted very well-learning to eat wild food in the correct manner gradually and overcome his fear of the natural grass in his new enviroment. Afterall, he has lived 4.5 years within concrete cages and this has been remarkable achivement for him! Since he was handreared after he was born, he loves a play of hide and seek with his human guardians. But beware-his loving hug could be deadly!

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Photos and videos © Save China's Tigers UK Charity No.1082216