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Tigers Near Extinction in China (1998)
BEIJING (AP) -- The South China tiger may have disappeared from the wild
and those in captivity may be too few to save the species from extinction, a Chinese
wildlife expert said Thursday, November 26.
Poachers shot the last wild South China tiger in southern Hunan province in 1994, and
since then scientists have found no sign that others are left in their natural habitat,
said Wang Menghu, deputy secretary-general of the China Zoo Protection Association.
Only 53 tigers remain, all of them in Chinese zoos. Only about half of them are the
right age for breeding, Wang said in a telephone interview.
"There's research we should do but can't because we don't have the proper equipment,''
he said. ``We need funds but have no source.''
Wang said there was still hope that the extinction of the South China tiger could at
least be forestalled, especially if China can get the population up to 100 in a few years.
In the 1950s, China had more than 4,000 tigers in the southern provinces of Hunan,
Jiangxi, Jiangsu and Fujian. Poaching -- mainly to cull their remains for traditional
Chinese medicine -- and loss of habitat from economic development has killed them off.
In May 1996, a report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature said fewer than 50 South
China tigers were estimated to remain in the wild. Throughout Asia, tigers were possibly
dying out at a rate of one per day and as few as 4,600 remained in the wild, it said.