South China Tiger Facts | Smallest Tiger of Asia

The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is the Asia’s smallest tiger. It is also one of the rarest tigers in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as critically endangered species. The tiger was thought to be extinct in the wild before 1996. Scientists believe that there might be a few South China tigers living in the wild though there is little evidence to prove it. The last of the South China tigers was sighted back in 1970s. Max Hilzheimer a German zoologist was the first one to discover South China tiger in 1905.

South China Tiger

Anatomy

  • The South China tiger is unique in its physical features but it shares the height with the Bengal tiger. The stripes on the coat and the skull are quite different to that of Bengal tigers.
  • Unlike Bengal tigers, it has yellowish coat but the stomach is white in color.
  • South China tigers have narrow stripes and they are greater in number.
  • It is one of the smallest tiger subspecies—second only to Sumatran tiger.
  • The body length of males is 230 to 265 cm (91 to 104 in) with the weight measuring up to 130 to 175 kg (287 to 386 lb).
  • Males are bigger than the females. Females weigh up to 110 to 115 kg (243 to 254 lb) and they are 220 to 240 cm (87 to 94 in) long.
  • Tigers have usually short tail.
  • The length of the skull is 318 to 343 mm (12.5 to 13.5 in) in males while females have 273 to 301 mm (10.7 to 11.9 in) long skull.
south china tiger facts
South China tiger in captivity

Range and Habitat

  • South China tigers live in the forests of China. They were once widespread across China from north to south but in the last 30 years tigers disappeared from its original territory.
  • They used to live in the Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces to as far as Sichuan Provinces.
  • There were 4,000 South China tigers in 1950s but human hunting and deforestation became the primary causes of population decline in China. In the early 1980s only 150 to 200 tigers survived in the forests of South China. By now South China tigers would probably have died out if there were no protected areas to save them from extinction. Today they are living in Chinese zoos.
  • South China tigers occur in a wide variety of habitats such as temperate forests and subtropical mountain forests.

Feeding Diet and Ecology

  • South China tigers prey on ungulates such as hog deer, gray langur, wild pig, and muntjac. They also eat small animals including peafowls, hares, tufted deer, sambar, and porcupines.
  • As humans destroy the original habitats of tigers the availability of prey is also limited. As it turns out, South China tigers begin to hunt domestic livestock. This indeed brings them close to humans. Finally humans kill tigers.
  • Tigers have unique way of killing prey. They attack large ungulates from behind and approach as close a distance as possible. After killing, tigers drag the animal and take into the shade. South China tigers eat up to 18–40 kilograms (40–88 lb) a day.

See also: What Do Tigers Eat?

south china tiger facts
South China tigers are likely to go extinct in the wild. Today they are raised in captivity.

Reproductive Biology

  • South China tigers breed all year round but they mostly mate from November to April.
  • Male tigers achieve maturity at 5 years age while females become mature at 4 years of age.
  • About 3 to 6 cubs are born after a gestation period of 103 days.
  • Females litter in a den where cubs remain safe. Cubs are helpless and blind and weigh up to 780 and 1600g (1.7-3.5 lbs.). They rely on mother’s milk in the first two months. The mother teaches her cubs how to hunt on their own.
  • Cubs become independent after nearly 2 years of age.
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