The South China Tiger
As a result of “the South China Tiger [being] one of the most endangered tiger subspecies in the world” (State Forestry Administration, 2000) China implemented the China Action Plan For Saving the South China Tiger. China’s State Forestry Administration developed the plan because it was necessary to minimize the threat of extinction posed by humans to these tigers. Without intervention, the South China Tiger would go extinct.
Historically, “The South China Tiger was widely distributed, [its range area was about] 2000 kilometers from east to west and 1500 kilometers from north to south” (State Forestry Administration, 2000). What lead to the South China Tiger being classified as extinct was the ignorance of people about the tiger’s ecological and reproductive fragility.
According to the China Action Plan, “During the thirty years before 1980 the wild population of the South China Tiger suffered from continuous large-scale hunting, deforestation of their habitats for timbers, reclaiming of agricultural lands, and pollution from chemical fertilizers”.
A combination of human encroachment and habitat destruction resulted in both a decrease in the numbers of South China tigers in the wild as well as a decrease in the habitat in which they were able to live.
The Ministry of Forest of the Peoples Republic of China combined its efforts with the World Wildlife Federation to conduct a study of the South China Tiger from 1990-1992. “The outcome of the survey revealed that there were about 20 to 30 South China Tigers living in the wild at that time. Therefore, the South China Tiger [was] on the brink of extinction” (State Forestry Administration, 2000).
There are two different types of South China Tiger populations: a wild population and a captive-bred population. The Ministry of Forestry “ordered continuous data collection [to determine the extent of the South China Tiger in the wild]…Over 2000 pieces of information was collected by May of 2000…it is confirmed that there is still a wild population of South China Tigers existing in China”(State Forestry Administration, 2000).
The captive-bred South China Tiger population began at 40 in 1988 and expanded to 62 by June 2000. The problem with the breeding of tigers within the zoo is that “many were bred as the second, third or fourth generations from the same father tiger. Hereditary diseases appeared in captive bred tigers caused by…inbreeding” (State Forestry Administration, 2000). Below is further discussion about the dangers of inbreeding and the lack of genetic variability within a species.
The problems with a species having such a low number of individuals is that the genetic diversity of the species is limited. Therefore, interbreeding (as illustrated in the above paragraph) can pose a serious threat to the existing population of a species. As genetic diversity dwindles there is a lesser chance of that species being able to survive. A lower...