South China Tiger
At the other end of the spectrum from the Bengal tiger in terms of long-term viability lies the South China tiger (technical name Panthera tigris amoyensis). This subspecies finds itself on the very brink of extinction. There have only been a few anecdotal reports of sightings in the wild over the last ten years. Only very little secondary evidence-pug marks, feces, remnants from a kill, etc.- have been reliably reported during this period.
Range & Habitat: China is unique among tiger range countries because four of the surviving tiger subspecies at one time lived within its borders.
The Siberian tiger in the far northeast bordering Russia and North Korea; the South China tiger (which is considered the evolutionary antecedent of all tigers) in the central parts of China; and the Indochinese and Bengal tigers in the far south bordering Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Assam (India). The tiger is a favorite subject of Chinese artists, depicted as fierce and powerful.
Diet: South China tigers hunt primarily between dusk and dawn, and they attack using the same method as do the lions. They stalk, chase, and attack, bringing down and killing the prey with usually a bite to the nape of the neck or the throat. The bite to the throat allows the tiger the ability to suffocate the prey bringing death relatively quickly and painlessly. Smaller animals are often killed with the bite to the nape of the neck allowing the tiger to to fracture the vertebrae and compress the spinal chord of its victim. Once killed, the tiger either drags or carries its meal into cover. The tigers enormous strength allows it to drag an animal that would require 13 adult men to move. Tigers consume anywhere from 35 - 90 pounds of meat at one sitting, beginning at the rump of the prey. If undisturbed, they will return to the carcass for 3-6 days, feeding until it has completely consumed its kill. Because tigers are not the most successful of hunters, only killing 1 in every 10-20 attempts, it may be several days before it has its next meal. In the wild, cooperative hunting among tigers has also been observed where couples and families hunted like a pride of lions. This, however, is the exception not the rule. Unlike the other felids, man is a regular part of the tigers diet and has earned them greatest reputation as man-eaters. The most common prey items are various species of deer and pig, but they will also take crocodiles, young elephants and rhinos, monkeys, birds, fish, leopards, bears, and even their own kind. They have also been reported to eat carrion.
Reproduction & Offspring: Tigers can breed at any time of the year, but they typically mate in winter or spring. Tigers appear to reach maturity at about 4 years of age, although earlier maturity has been recorded. Gestation is normally 103 days. The usual number of cubs is two or three, though there may be as many as six.
The cubs are blind and helpless at birth weighing about 3 pounds each. Their eyes usually open by the tenth day, although some zoo-born cubs have their eyes open as soon as they are born. During the first 8 weeks the cubs consume only their mother's milk. They are suckled for 5 or 6 months.
The cubs leave the den for the first time when they are 2 months old. They are wholly dependent until they are about 6 months old when they learn how to kill. They can hunt for themselves by the time they are about 18 months old and are fully independent at two years of age. Longevity in the wild is 15 years and 20 years in captivity.
Life span: 15 to 20 years in captivity.
Conservation Status: The South China Tiger is the most Critically Endangered (IUCN) of all of the living tiger subspecies. Considered by many experts as the "Stem" tiger. The subspecies in which all other tigers may have evolved from! Wild populations are less then 30 animals. In addition to wild populations, about 50 individuals live in zoos, all located with-in China. Unfortunitly all of these animals were decentants of only six "Founder Animals". As a result, very limited genetic diversity exists for a captive breading program.
Facts about South China Tiger:
- Also known as the Amoy Tiger.
- Also known as the Chinese Tiger.
- Most endangered of the tiger subspecies.
- Considered to be the evolutionary ancestor of all tiger.
- The only zoo's that have this tiger are in China.