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China Says It Has Only 50 Wild Tigers Left

China’s own wildlife officials estimate that only 50 tigers survive within its borders, Xinhua News reports. And those shockingly low numbers include four subspecies. The World Wildlife Fund figures they’ll go extinct within 30 years, an estimate which seems optimistic. The IUCN range maps show that tigers are doing much better outside China, sometimes just outside its borders.

China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) says only 20 Siberian tigers remain in China’s northeast, 20 Bengal tigers in Tibet, and 10 Indochinese tigers in the southwest. And you can pretty much forget about the South China tiger. Zhu Chunquan, conservation director of biodiversity at WWF China, told AFP: “After the late 1970s, there has been no concrete evidence to show that there are any left.”

Siberian Tiger (Pantera tigris ssp. altaic) : endangered (20 in China)

What’s weird here is that there’s a Siberian Tiger Breeding Center in Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, that brags that it’s bred 1,000 cats (some pictured here).

The center combines breeding and tourism, but has come under fire for animal cruelty. Specifically, it got in trouble for feeding the tigers live cows and sheep. That wouldn’t be bad if they were training tigers to hunt in the wild, but the videos show it’s more to make a buck off tourists. The bigger the animal killed, the more the tourist pays. Tourists on this video paid $60 (1,500 renminbi) to see a sheep slaughtered, not splurging $180 to witness a cow death.

The best hope for the Siberian tiger seems to be Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, who fancies them a national symbol.

South China Tigers (Panthera tigris amoyensis) critically endangered and possibly extinct

No one is sure if these cats live in the wild anymore. WWF’s estimate that there are zero South China tigers contradicts the group’s estimate on its Chinese website of 30-40.

The IUCN says reintroduction is sketchy, but progressing. The UK group Save China’s Tigers, is releasing cats in Zixi, Jiangxi, and Liuyang, Hunan. The controversy is that they’re retraining captive, closely-related tigers on private reserves in South Africa. About 70 captives survive, but they’re not even 100% genetically South China tigers. The range map shows the animal does much better just outside China.

Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) -Endangered (20 in Tibet)

Most Bengal tigers now live in India. The rangemap tell the story best: The animals live in many countries bordering China to the north and east, but have been wiped out in China.

Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris ssp. corbetti) – (10 in the Southwest)

In the IUCN’s count, they don’t even bother listing China as a habitat anymore. Most live in Thailand.

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