PHILIPPOLIS, South Africa, BEIJING and LONDON, Aug. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On a crisp, cold morning last week in the grasslands of South Africa, a South China tiger crouched, pounced, and locked its jaws around the neck of a blesbuck (a deer-like ungulate) directly in front of startled reserve managers. This was one of the many blesbuck to be hunted this year by the South China tigers being rewilded at Laohu Valley Reserve in South Africa. The powerful hunter proved once again that the world's rarest tiger subspecies has a new lease on life.
The Chinese Tiger Project is a partnership established in 2002 by an agreement between the Save China's Tigers (UK), the National Wildlife Research and Development Center of China's State Forestry Administration (SFA), and the Chinese Tigers South African Trust (CTSAT). Since that time, five South China tigers have been sent to South Africa as part of an innovative and ambitious effort to rewild and breed the world's rarest tiger, and their numbers at Laohu Valley Reserve have increased to 14. This project demonstrates that the South China tiger has the potential to recover, not only in numbers, but once-lost wilderness skills.
Recently, however, Li Quan, a founder of Save China's Tigers, departed the project. Chinese State Forestry Administration project director Lu Jun said, "We and our partners are fully committed to the Chinese Tiger Project. We have received updates on the tigers in South Africa and they are healthy and hunting well."
At a recent conference on global tiger conservation in Kunming, China, all three partners of the Chinese Tiger Project pledged their continued support for the effort. Mr. Yan Xun deputy director of Wildlife division of SFA, Mr. Stuart Bray from Save China's Tigers, and Mr. Rumit Shah representing CTSAT discussed future plans to reintroduce tigers into the wild at protected sites in Jiangxi, Hubei, and Hunan provinces. Save China's Tigers Chairman, Stuart Bray said, "We are all committed to the success of this important project. While the situation with my wife leaving the Project is truly unfortunate, I am determined to prevent any personal issues from interfering with the success of the Chinese Tiger Project."
The Chinese Tiger Project is moving ahead with the same dedicated management team and the support of some of the world's top wildlife scientists including Dr. Gary Koehler who did the first South China tiger survey in 1990. According to Laohu Valley Reserve manager Heinrich Funck, "Our research scientists have made important discoveries on how rewilded tigers hunt, and we are looking forward to sharing these findings with the scientific community in the near future. We also have our fingers crossed for good news on the breeding front as well."
Further inquiries can be made to either Save China's Tigers at email@example.com or Mr. Lu Jun, National Wildlife Research and Development Center of China's State Forestry Administration, firstname.lastname@example.org