The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is perhaps the most critically endgeredof the five remaining tiger subspecies. Though its status is largely unknown due to a lack of empirical data, it is estimated that fewer than 20 individuals may remain in the wild. The estimate is based primarily upon anecdotal sighting reports from former hunters, as officials have not actually seen a South China tiger in more than 20 years. This precarious dilemma necessitates that immediate conservation priorities be established, and that action be taken to determine if recovery of the wild population is possible.

The Tiger Foundation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Save China's Tigers (a UK based conservation group), are currently supporting the Chinese State Forestry Administration to train, equip and advise five Chinese field survey teams so that they can census the South China tigers presumed to remain. Any surviving tigers will be distributed in 11 protected areas within the provinces of Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi and Fujian in south central China. There are 19 reserves listed by the Chinese State Forestry Administration within the supposed range of the South China tiger, but they are spatially fragmented, and most are too small to support viable tiger populations.

InMarch 2001, The Tiger Foundation team conducted a training workshop in field methodology, including how to perform scientific interviews; execute techniques for tiger, prey, habitat quality and threat assessment; and use infrared camera technology as well as develop a GIS map-linked database of all field observations. Much of this technology and expertise was developed and perfected during the last five years of the groundbreaking Sumatran Tiger Project. For six months, beginning in the spring of 2001, two members of our team will accompany the Chinese field survey teams for several weeks. The objective is to find and photograph as many South China tigers as possible and to combine these photos with the relational tiger field database. Thus, the SFA can establish the location and number of South China tigers remaining in the wild, what their probability of survival is, and what is necessary to secure their future.

Please stay tuned for breaking news on this extraordinary initiative.