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Chinese Tigers to Get back to Their Wild Ways
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Three wild animal protection organizations signed an agreement in Beijing on Tuesday to reintroduce the Chinese tiger, also known as the South China tiger, into the wild by establishing several nature reserves.

The agreement's goal is to save the most critically endangered tiger sub-species, the Chinese tiger, which is the ancestor of all other tiger sub-species.

The three organizations are the Wildlife Research Center of the State Forestry Administration, the Chinese Tigers South Africa Trust and Save Chinese Tigers, a non-profit conservation organization founded in London in October 2002.

At least US$30 million is needed to run the wildlife conservation program that aims to train tiger cubs to hunt for themselves in the wild, according to Quan Li, founder of Save Chinese Tigers.

She said that these trainee cubs are expected to be introduced into the wild by the year 2008.

The experience of South Africa in protecting wild animals will be incorporated into the Chinese tiger conservation model to create a pilot reserve in China.

According to this model, indigenous Chinese wildlife will be reintroduced together with the Chinese tiger, Quan said.

Quan came up with the model when she visited Africa's wildlife reserves, where she was impressed by the excellent work in protecting wild animals.

She has devoted herself to the organization, which was started with funds donated by her businessman husband.

Fewer than 30 Chinese tigers, whose only habitat is in China, are left in the wild. About 60 remain in zoos, unlike their more numerous cousins the Indian or Bengalese tigers. The two names refer to the same species but in two countries, said Lu Jun, deputy research fellow with the Wildlife Research Center.

The trainee cubs "are all the offspring of six Chinese tigers, who are survivors of the program known as 'killing tigers, ridding evil' from the 1950s," Lu added.

"The closed blood relations lowers the quality of the species. What we can do to upgrade the tigers' quality is to provide conditions close to their wild nature."

According to scientific statistics, a 15-to-100-square-kilometre area is needed for a Chinese tiger in the wild, and 200 square kilometers of land is just enough for a small group of tigers.

(China Daily November 28, 2002)

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