TARGET: International Wildlife Conservation Community
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by July 15, 2015
The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is a tiger subspecies that was native to the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi in southern China, and has been classified as critically endangered by IUCN since 1996 as it is possibly extinct in the wild. There is a small chance that some individuals are still extant. But already in the late 1990s, continued survival was considered unlikely due to low prey density, widespread habitat degradation and fragmentation, and other human pressures. No official or biologist has seen a wild South China tiger since the early 1970s, when the last verified record is of an individual brought into captivity. Since the 1980s, the South China tiger is considered a relict population of the "stem" tiger, living close to the possible area of origin. Morphologically, it is the most distinctive of all tiger subspecies.
In 1973, South China tigers were classified as protected by controlled hunting. In 1977, they were classified as protected, and hunting them was prohibited. Tigers are included on CITES Appendix I, banning international trade. All tiger range states and countries with consumer markets have banned domestic trade as well. The non-governmental organisation Save China's Tigers, with support of China’s State Forestry Administration has developed a plan to reintroduce captive-born South China tigers into large enclosures in southern China. The main concerns regarding the reintroduction are the availability of suitable habitat and adequate prey, and the fitness of the captive population. Landscape-level conservation of wilderness habitat and recovery of wild herbivore populations as prey base for the tiger will be required. A suggested eventual goal was to establish at least three populations, with each population consisting of a minimum of about 15–20 tigers living in a minimum of 1,000 km2 (390 sq mi) of natural habitat. Cooperative field surveys and workshops have been carried out to identify suitable recovery areas. At the 14th Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2007, an end to tiger farming and stopping domestic trade in farmed tiger products in China were called for.
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