South China Tigers in Hunan?

South China tigers may be released into the wild. 

Why choose Hunan?

Are rewilded tigers a threat to humans? 

(24 June 2022)


When it comes to the South China tiger, I just want to use one word to describe it - ill-fated. As a unique tiger species in my country, the South China tiger used to spread all over the country, with tens of thousands of heads. However, in the continuous expansion and intensification of human-tiger conflicts, the South China tiger retreated steadily until the end of the 20th century, when it became extinct in the wild.


However, fortunately, the South China tiger was raised in captivity before it became extinct in the wild, so the South China tiger still retains the last fire. Now the South China tiger may be released into the wild in Hunan, which shows us the hope of the South China tiger rising again.


However, we cannot be blindly optimistic about the reintroduction of South China tigers into the wild, because releasing a large carnivore is far from as simple as we imagined. So, why did the South China tiger fall to this level? Why did the reintroduction of South China tigers into the wild be in Hunan? What other issues need to be resolved regarding the rewilding of South China tigers? Let's talk about the "Chinese tigers" that once spread all over our country.


Why did the South China tiger become extinct in the wild?


The South China tiger is a unique subspecies of tiger in my country, and it is one of the nine major subspecies of modern tigers. According to research by scientists, the birthplace of the tiger is in my country, and the gene and shape of the South China tiger are the closest to the original tiger. Even the International Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said that "tigers originated from southern China", so it is not an exaggeration to say that the South China tiger is the earliest modern tiger subspecies evolved.


Since tigers originated in southern my country, it is not surprising that there were many tigers in my country before. Although there were as many as five tiger subspecies in my country, the South China tiger was the most numerous.


The South China tiger used to be distributed not only in South China, but also in North China and Central China. It reached Beijing in the north, western Sichuan in the west, Guangdong in the south, and Shandong in the east (Water Margin). If the tiger is real, it is the South China tiger.


However, since ancient times, tigers have been hunted and killed as "pests", but ancient people seldom killed tigers because of their limited ability, and the previous tigers lived in deep mountains and old forests far away from human settlements , and the conflict between the two is relatively small. With the continuous increase of population, especially after entering the 20th century, the population has expanded rapidly, and more people will naturally need more residences and cultivated land, so a large number of forests have been cut down and reclaimed for use as cultivated land.


The forests were cut down and the mountains were reclaimed, which directly aggravated the conflict between humans and South China tigers. If humans want to survive, the South China tigers must also survive, so a war broke out between the two. However, it is no longer the time for humans to only have cold weapons. Trap heating weapons quickly reduced the number of South China tigers from tens of thousands to about 4,000 (early 1940s).


However, the population is still increasing, and hunting was very common in the past, and the prey that people hunted was the main food of South China tigers, such as wild boars, wild deer and other ungulates, which further deteriorated the living environment of South China tigers , in the 1950s, "Baihuwei Village" broke out in Hunan. According to the county records at that time, at least 2,000 people were killed by tigers in the 10 years from the 1940s to the 1950s, and 32 people were eaten by tigers in one day at most.


This made the already tense relationship between humans and tigers even worse. Therefore, starting in the 1950s, my country began a large-scale special hunting of tigers, which is the "tiger fever". According to records, throughout the 1950s, more than 1,000 South China tiger skins appeared on the market in my country every year. Under such crazy hunting, in the 1960s, under the intensified search and killing, there were more than 1,000 South China tiger skins on the market across the country. Only more than 60 tiger skins appeared.


Afterwards, people hardly saw tigers in the wild (South China tigers). However, due to the huge demand for tiger skins and bones in my country, poaching continued. In the 1990s, scientists After several fruitless searches, they officially announced that "the South China tiger is extinct in the wild".


The road to reintroduction of South China tigers?


Before we start, let’s talk about "extinct in the wild". In the "IUCN Red List", the protection status of animals is divided into nine levels. Next to extinction is extinct in the wild (EW), which means that the last wild individual of the species dies, but the captive animal still exists.


The premise of the South China tiger's release into the wild is that there are individuals living in artificial captivity. However, the number of South China tigers in captivity is a bit "appalling." According to public information, there are about 240 South China tigers today, but these South China tigers all came from the tigers in several zoos in Guizhou and Sichuan in the 1950s. There were about 6 tigers in total, which means that the more than 200 South China tigers today are from inbreeding.


Although inbreeding has many disadvantages, the health problems of these South China tigers are not serious under artificial selection. After all, artificial breeding can pair some tigers with large genetic differences, and then try to avoid direct inbreeding.


Regarding the rewilding of South China tigers, in fact, my country has already put them on the agenda. For example, in 2003, my country transported two South China tigers to Laohu Valley in South Africa for rewilding training. Ms. Li Quan and her husband bought land in South Africa to establish a protected area. The original intention of the establishment was to rewild the captive tigers, which Li Quan successfully achieved.


However, the original plan that these South China tigers would be successfully returned to China in 2008 did not come true.


In 2012, Ms. Quan Li and her husband started a divorce lawsuit. In the end, Ms. Quan Li was kicked out of the project. There is no end in the wild.


It was not until November last year that the State Forestry Administration put the rewilding of South China tigers on the agenda again. Finally, after considering various factors, the country set the "base camp" for the reintroduction of South China tigers in Hupingshan, Shimen, Hunan. level nature reserve.


But this time the project is much more reliable than the South African Tiger Valley, and the probability of success is much higher. Let’s talk about the reasons below.


What are the benefits of rewilding South China tigers in Hupingshan National Nature Reserve?


First of all, the rewilding of the South China tiger is more reliable in my country than in South Africa. After all, tigers have never been to Africa, and the South my country tiger is still a unique tiger species in China, so rewilding in my country is the most reasonable.


Secondly, the historical "Hundred Tiger Surrounding Village" happened in Hunan, which means that Hunan used to be one of the main distribution areas of South China tigers, and the original environment is obviously more conducive to the completion of rewilding.


Third, the Hupingshan National Nature Reserve was approved to be established as early as 1982, so its entire ecological environment is relatively well preserved, and the Hupingshan National Nature Reserve covers an area of 665 square kilometers, mainly forest system Mainly, it meets the needs of South China tigers for wild environments.


Fourth, Hupingshan National Nature Reserve is not "lonely" because it borders Hubei Wufeng Houhe and Zhangjiajie Badagong Mountain National Nature Reserve. The total area of the three protected areas exceeds 1,000 square kilometers. An adult South China tiger needs an average territory of about 80 square kilometers, so the Hupingshan National Nature Reserve alone can accommodate at least 8 adult tigers.

Fifth, in addition to rich plant resources, the Hupingshan Nature Reserve is also rich in animal resources, especially the large number of wild boars, and one of the main prey of tigers is wild boars, so if a small amount is put in, these The resources can meet the normal hunting needs of South China tigers.


Benefits and problems of rewilding South China tigers.


If the South China tiger can be successfully rewilded, it will definitely be a great thing. First, if the South China tiger is successfully rewilded, it will be able to remove the label of "extinct in the wild". Mutations and genetic differences with captive tigers can greatly reduce the adverse effects of inbreeding on South China tigers.


Thirdly, wild boars are infested in many places nowadays, which has a lot to do with their lack of natural enemies, and once the South China tiger is successfully rewilded, it will inevitably play a very good role in suppressing the number of wild boars and maintain the overall ecological balance. balance.


Of course, there are certain problems with the rewilding of South China tigers. There are two main problems: the diversity of prey and human safety.


The first is the issue of prey diversity. The main prey of South China tigers are wild boar, serow, sambar, muntjac, etc. However, the current situation is that apart from wild boar, the number of other animals is too small. National second-class protected animals are vulnerable species, and muntjac has become an endangered species. Therefore, in order to make the South China tiger better wild, it is also crucial to enrich biological diversity.


The second is the issue of human safety. In recent years, we have often heard or seen reports of Siberian tigers descending from the mountain. This is actually one of the manifestations of "human-tiger conflict". Although Siberian tigers that have descended the mountain several times rarely hurt people. , but we cannot avoid talking about the danger of the tiger, after all, it has the ability to kill in seconds.


However, we don’t need to worry about the threats to humans after the South China tigers have been rewilded, because the rewilding of South China tigers is not done in one go, but has scientific testing, and they are put into the national level. The protected area is inaccessible, so there is no need to consider this issue for the time being. If one day the rewilding of South China tigers is really successful, real-time detection of their numbers, expansion of their habitat range, and replenishment of the biodiversity in the original environment can prevent future "tigers going down the mountain".

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