South China/Indonesia tiger hybred (cross breed) in captivity in Kunming Zoo - Photo by ltansey (Flickr)
21st November 2010: This news has been coming for some time. We should not be surprised. The South China Tiger is extinct and that, it seems, means totally extinct. I am not just talking about extinct in the wild. That was a possibility for some time, which has now been confirmed.
But what about the rare South China tigers in captivity in China? Well, as anticipated it has now been admitted by Chinese scientists that they are all hybrids (cross breeds)!
Daniel Xu, a Chinese molecular biologist, has stated that there are no "pure" South China tigers in existence. There are no pure lineages left and all living South China tigers are "mixed with Indochinese tiger genes"1.
Well, that's it then, four subspecies down and how many to go? We are not sure because we don't know the true status of tiger populations, particularly when they are low, or the number of subspecies.
The other extinct subspecies of tiger are: Caspian, Bali, Javan. The remaining tiger subspecies are: Bengal (the most populous by far but shrinking fast), Siberian (very low population and even lower breeding population), Malaysian tiger (not certain that this is a different subspecies), Sumatran (extremely low population) and Indochinese tiger.
There is debate on whether the Siberian or South China tigers are the ancestors of all tigers. It is a dire state of affairs whichever way you look at it.
What is more dire is that the battle for conservation of the tiger is not being won; on the contrary it is being comprehensively lost, year on year.
The best minds in the conservation business are unable to change the course of the gradually extinction of tigers because they are worth too much dead! Or the forest where they live is becoming too valuable to leave standing. True.
Selected Associated Pages:
Tiger Farms - hideous practice (opens in a new window)
The South China Tiger Is Extinct -- Note:
1. Sunday Times Newspaper Nov. 21st 2010.