At the other end of the spectrum from the Bengal tiger in terms of long-term viability lies the South China tiger (technical name Panthera tigris amoyensis). This subspecies finds itself on the very brink of extinction. There have only been a few anecdotal reports of sightings in the wild over the last ten years. Only very little secondary evidence-pug marks, feces, remnants from a kill, etc.- have been reliably reported during this period.
The most optimistic estimates place the number of surviving South China tigers at around two or three-dozen at most. Even if protected completely, such a small wild population is unlikely to survive. Only half are liable to be of breeding age, and only half of those are likely to be females-a mere handful. The probability of such a small number of tigresses finding mates and then raising cubs to maturity is simply too small to be considered a viable subspecies. Even if they could be brought together and bred freely, the effect of inbreeding would eventually take its toll.

Even in zoos there are only a few dozen animals identified as members of the South China subspecies (all in China), and the ancestry of all these animals remains to be proven pure. In addition, neither formalized studbooks nor breeding programs have been established to preserve the genetic viability of these animals.

The dire circumstances in which this subspecies finds itself is particularly unfortunate, since only 40 years ago the South China tiger was believed to be one of the most abundant surviving subspecies, represented by an estimated 4000 individuals in the wild. Regretfully, the government of China declared them to be pests, and they were hunted without restriction. Cash bounties were often paid in return for a dead South China tiger.

Despite its rarity, efforts continue to detect and monitor this subspecies. In addition, important contacts have been made with the zoos in China that hold captive specimens, with plans to involve genetically pure cats in a dedicated program of conservation breeding. Given the small number that survives, we can only buy them time. The only way to preserve the remaining South China tiger gene pool appears to be by interbreeding it with that of other similar tigers such as the Indo-Chinese race. A Sino-UK team is proposing to do just that in the coming years.

Tragically, the South China tiger, as it is currently defined, appears doomed to extinction, if it isn't already.
Sumatran, Indo-chinese, Southchinese, Bengal, Siberian, Caspian, Javan, Balinese