The south China tiger, a species native to south China but
thought to be extinct in the wild, almost certainly still exist in
the remote subtropical forests in the wild west, a group of
"We saw footprints, heard their bellows and talked to villagers
who had seen the big cats," said Prof. Liu Shifeng of Northwest
Liu headed a group of 30 zoologists to trace the tiger in the
outback of Shaanxi Province last summer and winter. They
searched through at least 130,000 hectares of forests in two trips
that together lasted two and a half months. But not a single tiger
The last south China tiger was seen in Shaanxi Province in
"But this time we did find big footprints 15 cm long and 15 cm
wide at an interval of one meter. They could not have been left by
leopards or any other known animal in the region," he said.
Liu and his colleagues also found remains of torn-apart wild
boars in the forests. "All the signs suggest south China tigers
still roam the forests."
The group also visited 19 villages in eight towns in the rural
counties of Zhenping and Pingli to find lucky people who had
actually seen a tiger.
The experience was more fearful than lucky for Song Keming and
Wang Genhua, two peasants from Zengjiazhen town of Zhenping county
who saw a tiger on June 15, 2006.
"We were on a hill close to our village and saw two women
collecting herbs not far off," said Song.
But something behind the two women sent a chill down their
spines. "It was a tiger at least two meters long," he said.
Lucky for all the four villagers, the tiger didn't attack and
quickly disappeared in the forests.
A latest report by the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry
Administration says south China tigers have been spotted 17 times
in Zhenping county.
Chinese history books say tigers existed in Shaanxi Province
more than 1,000 years ago. "I'm happy, but not surprised that the
big cats still roam the wild today," said Prof. Liu.
The provincial forestry administration said it plans to build
Zhenping county into a new habitat for the tigers.
"South China tigers are as critically-endangered as giant
pandas," said Wang Wanyun, an official in charge of wildlife
preservation. "We'll do everything we can to protect."
Experts believe south China tigers are extinct in the wild. Only
68 have been bred in captivity at Chinese zoos and these are all
descendants of two male and four female tigers caught in the 1950s
and 1970s. Unless more are found in the wild, these zoo-bred tigers
will eventually die out because of inbreeding.
Experts with Guangzhou Zoo and South China Agricultural
University have started to preserve somatic cells of the tiger, so
that the animal may be cloned to prevent from extinction.
The south China tiger, from which other sub-species such as the
Siberian Tiger evolved, has been listed as one of the world's 10
most endangered animals.
Its former habitats were in Guangdong Province, Guangxi Zhuang
Autonomous Region as well as the central provinces of Hunan and
(Xinhua News Agency July 15, 2007)