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Scientists Praise China's Commitment to Reintroduce Tigers to the Wild

2014-03-12 04:53
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JOHANNESBURG, March 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- An international team of wildlife scientists praised China's commitment to reintroduce tigers into the wild during a recent meeting at Laohu Valley Reserve in South Africa. The meetings signalled continued cooperation and new momentum in the effort to reintroduce the world's rarest tiger, the South China tiger, back into the wild in China.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140313/674202-a)
(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140313/674202-b)

The scientists and representatives of the UK charity, Save China's Tigers, hosted a delegation from the Chinese State Forestry Administration to Laohu Valley Reserve in South Africa's Free State province. Laohu Valley Reserve is home to an ambitious effort to breed and rewild South China tigers for introduction into restored wild areas in China. The meetings were part of an effort to evaluate the progress of the South China Tiger Project and discuss next steps.

The scientists and Chinese State Forestry Administration representatives celebrated the success of the first phase of the Project. Project Director, Mr. Lu Jun, noted that "not only are these South China tigers in excellent health, but they have been rewilded successfully and are ready to return to the wild in China."

Save China's Tigers and the Chinese government delegation also confirmed their commitment to the second phase of the Project - the reintroduction of rewilded South China tigers into large protected wild areas in China. Mr. Lu Jun noted, "We have together already made great progress in rewilding and will continue to work together to restore habitat for the tigers in China."

The group also reviewed the groundbreaking research being conducted by Dr. Maria Fabregas on the rewilding of the tigers at Laohu Valley Reserve. As part of her research, she assesses hunting performance of each of the tigers held at the South African facility to ensure they are proficient hunters before they are reintroduced back into their former range in China.

Preliminary results are indeed very positive, showing that the evaluated tigers are able to hunt frequently enough to meet their energetic requirements, but most importantly, they show a high level of adaptability in their hunting behaviour. Dr. Maria Fabregas indicated that, "the fact that they are flexible in their hunting strategies depending on environment is very encouraging, as the habitat where they will be reintroduced in China will be very different from what they experience here in South Africa. Being able to adapt to different environments is crucial for their survival."

Importantly, Save China's Tigers and State Forestry Administration representatives will be meeting with provincial authorities in the next few months. These meetings will lay the groundwork for the development of large fenced reserves to return tigers. Dr. Gary Koehler said, "It is truly gratifying to see the success of this project and the support of the Chinese government to ensure that these tigers are returned to the wild in China."

Save China's Tigers has been at the forefront of rewilding tigers and sharing this knowledge with others in tiger conservation, most recently with the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is an iconic symbol in Chinese culture, but only a few possibly remain in the wild and approximately 100 live in captivity. The Chinese Tiger Project began in 2002 when Save China's Tigers and the Chinese Tigers South African Trust signed a landmark agreement with the Chinese government to transfer zoo born tigers from China to Laohu Valley Reserve to breed and be rewilded for later introduction into the wild in China.

Further inquires can be made to either Save China's Tigers at info@savechinastigers.org or Mr. Lu Jun, National Wildlife Research and Development Center of China's State Forestry Administration, lujunmail@vip.sina.com

Source: The Chinese Tiger Project

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