South China tigers, also known as the Amoy tiger, Xiamen tiger, South Chinese tiger, Chinese tiger, are carnivores found in China. They are believed to be the ancestors of all tiger subspecies. The most endangered among all tigers, they are in fact one of the 10 most endangered animals in the world. Some conservationists believe that they are functionally extinct in the wild. An organization is trying to rewild South China tigers in South Africa.
Size: The males of this subspecies reach a length of around 91-104 inches (230-265 cm) between the pegs, while the females can grow up to 87-94 inches (220-240 cm) between the pegs.
Weight: Males tigers weigh between 287 and 386 lbs (130-175 kg), and the females between 243 and 254 lbs (110-115 kg).
Color: They have black stripes on an orange background, undersides are white, as are the insides of the legs and parts of the face.
SexualDimorphism: Male South China tigers are larger than females.
Although there are no confirmed sightings since the late 1990’s, these felines could once be seen in the Chinese provinces of Hunan, Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi.
They live in temperate upland forests of Southern China.
South China Tiger
South China Tiger Habitat
South China tigers are solitary predators, except for mating pairs and mothers with cubs.
They stalk their prey from the side or back, creeping up to a very close distance before making the final charge.
Once they catch their prey, they often drag it to cover before consuming it.
They are nocturnal, being at their most active at night and resting during the day.
They love to be in the water and are excellent swimmers.
Mating & Reproduction
These tigers mate the most between late November and early April. The gestation period lasts for around 3-3½ months after which the female gives birth to a litter of 3-6 cubs.
Newborn cubs are blind and weigh 1.7-3.5 lbs. They are weaned at 8 weeks and taught to hunt when they reach 6 months of age. They separate from the mother when they reach an age of 1.5-2 years. Males reach sexual maturity when they are 5 years old and female reach the stage when they are 4.
South China Tiger Cubs
Baby South China Tiger
A South China tiger lives for around 15 years in the wild, but in captivity, they can live for up to 20 years.
Sounds & Communication
They communicate through growls, roars, chuffs, moans. Scent marking and tree scratching are other methods of communication used.
Ungulates form the bulk of their diet. Muntjac, hog deer, wild pig are frequently hunted for food. They also kill and eat grey langurs, hares, porcupines, and peafowl. Because of human encroachment into their territory, they sometimes take livestock.
South China Tigers
South China Tiger Food Web
Specially adapted eyesight, common to all members of the cat family, helps them see in the dark.
The skin coloration helps them blend in with the forest, effectively becoming invisible to their prey.
Retractable claws help them to hold on to their prey as they deliver a fatal bite.
Strong hind legs help them to swim, leap, and run. They can reach speeds of up to 60 miles an hour but can only retain in for short bursts.
They have minute backward curved structures in their tongue called papillae which help them lick meat off a carcass down to the bone.
Being the apex predator in its habitat, the South China tiger does not have any natural predators.
IUCN Conservation Status
The IUCN lists the South China tiger under the ‘Critically Endangered’ category.
Why is the South China Tiger Endangered
Around the 1950’s, the population of this tiger was believed to be around 4,000. The political scenario changed soon after, with the Chinese head-of-state announcing his country’s ‘great leap forward,’ shifting the economy from an agricultural to an industrial one. Large portions of the tiger’s habitat were destroyed, and the tigers themselves were killed in the hundreds because they were perceived as pests. Although this persecution was ceased in 1977 when killing these animals became punishable, the damage had been done. In 1987 the estimated population of South China tigers in the wild was a mere 30-40 individuals.
The South China Tiger
South China Tiger Pictures
The stripes on this tiger are spaced farthest apart among all the subspecies.
South China tigers are the smallest tiger subspecies in Mainland Asia.