Population and Conservation Status
- The South China Tiger is the most critically endangered species of tiger in the world. There are about two dozen in world in reserves in China and South Africa.
- According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature this subspecies may be functionally extinct as it has not been observed in the wild during the last two decades.
- It is listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
- In the mid 20th century these tigers were hunted for their body parts which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They were also killed because they were considered pest.
- The objective is to reintroduce the species in the wild.
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Genus: Panthera
- Species: Panthera tigris
- Subspecies: Panthera tigris amoyensis
- Common name: South China Tiger, Amoy Tiger, Xiamen Tiger.
- Scientific name: Panthera tigris amoyensis.
- The South China Tiger distribution comprised Central and Southern China, a territory they used to share with Bengal Tigers, Siberian Tigers and Indochinese Tigers.
- Loss of habitat due to population growth and hunting have driven this species to extinction in the wild.
- Their habitat must include plenty of prey, source of water and cover.
- Their habitat consists in evergreen forests, swamps, woodlands, grassland, deciduous forests, tropical forests, savannas and rocky habitats.
- They are exposed to a variety of climates, temperatures and elevations.
- The South China Tiger is a smaller subspecies of Panthera tigris.
- Their stripes are broader and spaced further apart than in other tigers. Each tiger has a unique pattern of stripes.
- The earthy colors of its undercoat provide camouflage with their natural surroundings making it easier to hide behind trees when eyeing a prey.
Size and Length
- Males reach 8 feet or 2.6 meters in length while males 7.5 feet or 2.3 meters.
- Males weigh approximately 330 lb or 150 kg and females 240 lb or 110 kg.
- The South China Tiger, as all the tiger subspecies, is a carnivore. It stalks its prey silently before it attacks its prey from behind or the side by breaking its neck. It then drags its victim to a shelter where it is consumed.
- They can consume up to 88 lb or 40 kg of meat at a time, however they can go without eating for long periods.
- Tigers are solitary animals.
- Tigers are strong swimmers and climbers.
- They establish their home range by spraying trees and rocks in their territory with urine, scraping trees and marking trails with scat.
- The size of a home range depends on density. Tigers will defend their home range but would let another tiger who has shown submission to share part of it so their home ranges would overlap.
- Females establish their territories near their mother’s while males disperse further.
- They communicate by roars, growls, moans, hisses and mews. Each vocalization has a meaning. For instance moans means submission while roars dominance.
- They also communicate by facial expressions. An example is the defense threat when the tiger exposes its teeth, flatten its ears and their pupils dilate.
- Tigers build dens in dense vegetation, caves, in a hollow tree or under a fallen tree.
- Tigers prefer to hunt at night. They locate their prey using sight and hearing.
- The South China Tiger can mate at any time of the year but it is more common from the end of November until April. They are polygamous.
- Males reach sexual maturity at 5 years while females at 4 years old.
- Gestation period is 103 days.
- Litter size is one to five cubs.
- Cubs are born blind and only drink their mother’s milk for the first 8 weeks.
- At 8 weeks cubs are ready to leave the den. At 6 months their mothers teach them how to hunt their own food.
- They are fully independent when they are between 18 to 24 months.
- In the wild South China Tigers live about 15 years.
- In captivity they live about 20 years.
Reference and Further Research
Itis Report – Panthera tigris amoyensis
State Forest Administration, P.R. China – The China Action Plan for Saving the South China Tiger.
University of Michigan Museum of Zoology – Panthera tigris
Cambridge University Press Journal of Zoology
U.S. Department of Agriculture Information Resources on Tigers, Panthera tigris: Natural History, Ecology, Conservation, Biology, and Captive Care.
Panthera, Leaders in Wildlife Conservation – Tiger Subspecies
Google Scholar – Panthera tigris
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Flora