Save China's Tigers

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Save China's Tigers, organization logo

Save China's Tigers (SCT) is an international charitable foundation based in Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom (Office in London) which aims to save the big cats of China from extinction. It focuses on the Chinese tigers (South China Tigers). It also has branches in Mainland China and South Africa.

Aims[edit]

Stud tiger 327 with his potential mate, Cathay

The organisation's vision is to raise awareness of the plight of the Chinese tiger and to strive for its protection and preservation through public education, introduction and experimentation with advanced conservation models in China and abroad, and raising funds to support these initiatives. Another aim is to act as a liaison for all those organisations concerned with the conservation of China's wildlife, sustainable development, biodiversity and habitat. The purpose of Save China's Tigers is to reverse the fate of the South China Tiger from the brink of extinction by taking them out of zoos, breeding them, letting them regain their hunting abilities, and reintroducing them back to China's wild.[1] The organisation's stated goal is to save the South China Tiger using this new method of rehabilitation and reintroduction. No captive-born large predators have ever been successfully reintroduced into the wild before.[2] It is an experiment to attempt to save a large carnivore by re-introducing them into the wild. To achieve this goal, Save China's Tigers is using a combination of in-situ and ex-situ conservation. The organization is aiming to set a precedent for international wildlife conservation and for zoos throughout the world.[3]

History[edit]

Founder of Save China's Tigers, Li Quan

"Save China's Tigers" was founded in 2000 by Li Quan, former fashion executive at Gucci, Benetton and Fila in Italy. When Li Quan realized the dire state of the South China Tigers in the wild and saw the poor conditions in which captive South China Tigers were living in China several years ago, she devoted herself to save the tigers.[4] She established the charitable foundation Save China's Tigers in the UK in 2000, and subsequently in the United States (2002) and Hong Kong (2003). She engineered the Chinese Tiger Conservation Model after observing and analysing how wildlife conservation and eco-tourism have succeeded in Africa. In 2001, Li Quan proposed to China to use South African expertise to help China's Chinese Tiger Rehabilitation & Reintroduction project, which the Chinese started in the 1990s, and invited a South African Team to visit China.[5]

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of their establishment, Save China's Tigers released a photo documentary book known as "Rewilded".[6]

Rewilding[edit]

Origin[edit]

The word "rewilding" was coined by conservationist and activist Dave Foreman,[7] first occurring in print in 1990.[8] The concept was further defined and expanded by conservation biologists Michael Soulé and Reed Noss in a paper published in 1998.[9] According to Soulé and Noss, rewilding is a conservation method based on "cores, corridors, and carnivores."[10]

The word was first independently used in 2003 by Gus Van Dyk in the concept of carnivore rewilding (having no prior knowledge of its meaning referred to by Foremen and Soule), conservationist and ex-carnivore manager of Pilanesberg National Park, in an effort to find the most appropriate translation of the Chinese term "野化".

The rewilding process[edit]

Tigerwoods mounting Madonna

In order to be successfully reintroduced into a wild environment, tigers must know how to hunt prey and have to be able to defend themselves. Once in captivity, an animal will gradually lose its ability to survive in the wild, and will likely die if released. Thus Save China's Tigers started a rehabilitation programme to help captive tigers regain their survival skills. Rehabilitation steps taken by the project include feeding the tigers with carcasses of small game. Once the tigers are eating the new food items, live animals similar to those taken dead will be occasionally introduced into large hunting camps.

The SPCA claimed that this process was cruel to the prey, but the courts refused to issue an interdict in terms of South African law.[11]

There are plans to introduce larger games into larger camp like the Blue wildebeest; the tigers have already been provided with wildebeest carcasses. The prey needed for wild training of the tigers do not have to be the same as those in the original food chain of the tigers, as once a tiger knows how to hunt wild animals of a given size, it should be able to transfer those skills to hunting in the wild.

Ideally, a former zoo tiger which has been rewilded and reintroduced into a natural habitat will not only be able to survive in the wild, but pass necessary skills on to any offspring, thus contributing to the survival of the species. Save China's Tigers has also proved that not only zoo tigers can learn to hunt, they can also learn to hunt by themselves through the "adaptive process". The roles of humans are limited to that monitoring and providing a suitable environment.

Results of a 2010 workshop attended by numerous international experts confirmed the important role of the South China Tiger Rewilding Project in tiger conservation. "Having seen the tigers hunting in an open environment at Laohu Valley Reserve, I believe that these rewilded tigers have the skill to hunt in any environment." Dr. David Smith remarked. As part of the rewilding process, the Save China's Tigers team has assisted in the recovery and rehabilitation of natural habitat both in China and in South Africa[12]

The Laohu Valley Reserve[edit]

The Laohu Valley Reserve (LVR) is a roughly 350 square kilometer private reserve near Philippolis in the Free State.[13] It has been created with the aims of rewilding captive-born South China tigers and for South African biodiversity conservation in general. LVR was created in 2002 out of 17 defunct sheep farms,[14][15][16] and efforts to return the overgrazed land to natural status are ongoing. The South China Tigers at LVR for rewilding are kept confined to a tiger-proof camp complex of roughly 1.8 square kilometers, with other areas of the reserve being used to protect native South African species. The word "laohu" is a Chinese term for tiger.[17]

Li Quan initially enlisted the help of John Varty (wildlife filmmaker) and Dave Varty (eco-tourism developer) in South Africa to assist in the rehabilitation process.[18] However, Li Quan and her husband, investment banker Stuart Bray, became concerned that the Varty's were misusing the project's funds to buy land for themselves. Later, in July 2002, the Varty's admitted to borrowing a small portion of Bray's money.[18] After a legal audit, it was discovered that over R5-million had been borrowed by the Varty's, having been used to pay off the Varty's Londolozi Productions' debt, on unauthorised salaries and were also said to have gone into the Varty's personal loan accounts and towards paying off their Betty's Bay seaside property.[18][19] Finally, in October 2002, a few weeks before an agreement was due to be signed with Chinese authorities after the Chinese Wildlife Department began to recognize the project's conservation value, the Varty's pulled out of the project.[18] John Varty has since founded his own "tiger rewilding" project, Tiger Canyons, also near Philippolis, using the land he acquired using Bray's funds. However, Tiger Canyons uses unendangered, hybrid breeds of tigers and has been criticized as having no conservation value and only being used for the purpose of creating the film Living With Tigers, which would air on Discovery Channel.[20]

Effects of tigers on South Africa's ecosystem and biodiversity[edit]

There are some people who oppose the project because they are afraid that the tigers, which are not naturally found in Africa, and being considered as an alien species will affect South African biodiversity negatively if they were brought to Africa.

However, the project will not face this problem as Laohu Valley reserve is converted from 17 pieces of defunct sheep farms that were overgrazed and therefore no healthy ecosystems existed there at all. In addition, the tigers are in camps - fenced off, hence the South China Tigers would not be able to roam outside of Laohu Valley reserve thus there is no contact between the South China Tigers and any healthy eco-system that exist nearby. On the other hand, instead of having negative effects on Africa's biodiversity, the project actually have positive effects on the biodiversity. This is because the defunct sheep farms are restored and converted to wildlife reserve. This can be considered the contribution of the Chinese tiger to the biodiversity of South Africa. Without the Chinese tigers, the project would never purchase the land for the project in South Africa.

Furthermore, due to the action spearheaded by Save China's Tigers, other efforts to convert defunct sheep farms to wildlife farms in this area have been gaining speed. In other words, SCT is a leader in restoring South African biodiversity in the area of Phillippolis of Free State in South Africa.

The prey menu of tiger and lion is alike. Save China's Tigers do not believe there will be any side-effect to the local ecology.[21]

The tigers involved[edit]

Deceased South China Tiger, Hope

Li Quan persuaded the Chinese government to allow her to bring several captive South China tigers to Africa, where they can start their rewilding training. To date, five South China tigers have left the zoos of China and been sent to South Africa for re-wilding training. These tigers include:

  1. Hope, born on 17 February 2003, got his name from readers of the Sunday People, a British newspaper. He died on 20 August 2005 in South Africa. His autopsy report suggested that the primary cause of death was pneumonia and heart failure. Conclusion was that the tiger was suffering from immunosuppression, supported by the presence of opportunistic bacteria that are normally only found replicating in animals that are immune compromised.[22]
  2. Cathay, The female tiger born on 21 January 2003, is named Cathay in acknowledgement of Cathay Pacific Airways that sponsored the transportation of the Chinese tigers till 2008. She is the mother of Hulooo, JenB and Coco with Tigerwoods, and Huwaa, Tang Yi and Shang Yi with 327.
    Cathay, South China Tigress
  3. Tigerwoods, male tiger, born on 9 March 2004. He is the father of three cubs with Cathay, and five cubs with Madonna.[23]
  4. Madonna, tigress, born on 20 April 2004. She gave birth to two cubs in April 2008 but the first was a stillborn, and the second died of heart failure a week after its birth. She gave birth to her second litter King Henry and Princess, on 18 August 2008 with Tigerwoods. On 12 October 2011, Madonna gave birth to three female cubs Vita, Yoya and Zeta, sired by 327. In April 2014 Madonna gave birth to three cubs, one male and two female, sired by Tigerwoods. [24]
  5. Stud Tiger 327, this stud male - registered as No. 327 in the Studbook Registry of the Zoological Association of China, does not yet have a name. His main role was to replace Hope, as a mate for Cathay. He sired three cubs with Cathay, and three cubs with Madonna[25] He is chosen for the project because he is a healthy looking stud tiger, one of the finer tigers in Suzhou reserve.[26][27] On 17 September 2011, 327 broke through an electrified fence which separates him from Tigerwoods. SCT staffs managed the separate the two animals within five minutes of skirmish, but 327 was already fatally wounded. Veterinarian has confirmed its death to be due to throat injuries.[28]

The breeding program has successfully produced several tiger cubs, including:

  1. Huloo, a male offspring of Tigerwoods and Cathay was born on 23 November 2007, was the first cub to be born through the project. He was separated from his mother at birth because of fears that he would die of exposure, and was hand reared at Lory Park Zoo until he was old enough to return to Laohu Valley.
  2. JenB, born on 30 March 2008, is a male offspring of Tigerwoods and Cathay, was named after the late Jenifer Bone, of Sydney, Australia, to commemorate her donations to Save China's Tigers.[29]
  3. Coco, brother and littermate of JenB, was named using a naming contest sponsored by the Asian Tigers Group.[30]
  4. King Henry, born on 18 August 2008, the offspring of Tigerwoods and Madonna.[31] King Henry was named in Honour of King Henry VIII Preparatory School's Fundraising efforts for Save China's Tigers.[32]
  5. Princess, sister and littermate of King Henry, is the first female born through the Save China's Tigers program. Her survival will be vital for the breeding of future generations of rewilded South China Tigers in South Africa. Princess became a mother on 29/08/2013 to a female cub. The father is Huloo. [31]
  6. Huwaa, a female cub born to Cathay and 327, was born on 31 January 2011.[27]
  7. Tang Yi, a male cub born to Cathay and 327 on 20 July 2011. Littermate of Shang Yi.
  8. Shang Yi, a male cub born to Cathay and 327 on 20 July 2011. Littermate of Tang Yi.
  9. Vita, a female cub born to Madonna and 327 on 12 2011. Littermate of Yoya and Zeta.
  10. Yoya, a female cub born to Madonna and 327 on 12 2011. Littermate of Vita and Zeta.
  11. Zeta, a female cub born to Madonna and 327 on 12 2011. Littermate of Vita and Yoya

In April 2014 Madonna gave birth to three cubs, two females and one male. The father of the cubs is Tigerwoods.

On August 29th 2013, The Save China's Tigers Project welcomed its first third generation female cub, born to Princess and Huloo.

With the birth of these cubs, 18 South China Tigers are in the care of Save China's Tigers – more than 20% of the world population of the world's most critically endangered tiger.[33]

Obstacles[edit]

Stud Tiger 327 with blesbuck carcass

A large difficulty faced by the project is the limited gene pool for South China Tigers - all of the South China Tigers in Chinese zoos are descended from only 6 individuals caught in the 1950s.[34] Since these tigers in captivity have been reproducing with close relatives, the quality of their genes is deteriorating. The project plans to improve living conditions and breed them scientifically – to this end a breeding centre, the David Tang Tiger Breeding Center, has been constructed at the Laohu Valley Reserve.

Mainstream conservationists are however not impressed. The WWF says that the money is being spent in the wrong place and that the Amur Tiger has a better chance of survival.[35]

The biggest obstacles are from man-made resistance, some organizations in China or from abroad kept raising objections and condemn the strategy used to save the tigers, telling the organization to give up. To SCT, these obstacles make the tiger salvation program even tougher.

Proponents of the Chinese Tiger Project argue that the South China Tiger is not only the most ancient tiger species in the world from which all other tiger subspecies are derived, it has been a cultural symbol of China for eight thousand years, so that it from the brink of extinction would have a great cultural impact.

Establishment of South China Tiger reserves in China[edit]

Since 2001, Save China's Tigers South African team has been working with the Chinese State Forestry Administration to identify locations for the reintroduction of the rewilded South China Tigers. Nine sites from four provinces were surveyed using 36 ecological parameters. Two candidate sites were selected in Jiangxi and Hunan province in early 2005, both of which were approved by the State Forestry Administration by the end of 2005. Due to the progress of Save China's Tigers rewilding project, the Chinese authorities also decided to look for sites within the nature reserves where there would be fewer human population relocation issues. In early 2010, a government scientific team identified an interim test site and three final sites, which are now awaiting approval from the relevant central government department. Save China's Tigers' scientific team is assisting Chinese authorities with fencing technology, re-stocking prey, and building tiger and wildlife management expertise.

Save China's Tigers contribution to other conservation areas[edit]

Save China's Tigers, a charitable foundation funding pioneering work with the South China Tiger, has broadened its scope of conservation goals from tigers to include all wild cats around the world. On 7 August 2009, it launched the "Wildcat Fund" to encourage and support wild cat research, conservation, and reintroduction efforts for highly endangered and vulnerable wild cats. Historically, funding in wild cat conservation has favoured the large, charismatic species. While giving priorities to cat species having the IUCN "Endangered" status or above, the Wildcat Fund encourages projects conducting pioneering biological and ecological research of little known cat species in an effort to increase understanding of these species and help design improved conservation techniques.[36]

Allegations of misuse of funds[edit]

In 2013, Li accused Bray of using charitable funds for personal expenses.[37]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Overview | Save China's Tigers
  2. ^ YouTube - Save China's Tigers!
  3. ^ Founder Ms. Li Quan's Message | Save China's Tigers
  4. ^ YouTube - CBS News on saving China's tigers
  5. ^ History | Save China's Tigers
  6. ^ Launching "Rewilded" in Celebration of Ten Years of Save China's Tigers | Li Quan Blog
  7. ^ Caroline Fraser, Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009), p. 356.
  8. ^ Jennifer Foote, "Trying to Take Back the Planet," Newsweek, 5 February 1990.
  9. ^ Michael Soulé and Reed Noss, "Rewilding and Biodiversity: Complementary Goals for Continental Conservation," Wild Earth 8 (Fall 1998) 19-28.
  10. ^ Soule and Noss, "Rewilding and Biodiversity," p. 22.
  11. ^ NSPCA suit against SCT
  12. ^ Scientists Confirm the Role of Rewilding Captive Populations to Save the South China Tiger
  13. ^ Rare tigers raised in Africa to be rewilded in China
  14. ^ Liu, Cecily (16 October 2010). "Rewilded: Saving the South China Tiger". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Blandy, Fran (13 December 2007). "South China tiger finds hope in South Africa". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Save China's Tigers - Hope's Story". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  17. ^ http://www.laohuvalleyreserve.org/background/
  18. ^ a b c d "Paper Tigers: South Africa". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  19. ^ "Vartys 'misused' tiger funds". news24. 18 March 2003. Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Tiger Film a Fraud, says The Chinese Tigers South African Trust". Retrieved 27 August 2011. 
  21. ^ FAQs | Save China's Tigers
  22. ^ FAQs | Save China's Tigers
  23. ^ The patter of tiny paws... meet the tiger cub whose species depends on his survival | the Daily Mail
  24. ^ Li Quan's blog | Founder of Save China's Tigers
  25. ^ FAQs | Save China's Tigers
  26. ^ Wild romance awaits endangered tiger -CNN News, April 23, 2007 | Save China's Tigers
  27. ^ a b http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/613
  28. ^ Pioneering Tiger Dies in South African Reserve | Save China's Tigers Breaking News
  29. ^ "Branded Extinct"- South China Tiger Cub Named After Australian Jenifer Bone, June 23, 2008 | Save China's Tigers
  30. ^ Rare Tiger Cub Named 'Coco' in Asian Tigers Contest, Sept. 19, 2008 | Save China's Tigers
  31. ^ a b Li Quan's blog | Founder of Save China's Tigers
  32. ^ Newborn South China Tiger named "King Henry" in Honour of School's Fundraising, Oct.17, 2008 | Save China's Tigers
  33. ^ Endangered South China Tigress gives birth in SA | The Good News - South Africa
  34. ^ http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/243
  35. ^ Tiger finance, a banker's effort to fund survival
  36. ^ Save China's Tigers to Fund Wild Cat Conservation Worldwide
  37. ^ Divorcing couple who 'used tiger charity money to pay a life of luxury' are now at war Retrieved 27 December 2013

External links[edit]