BEIJING (Reuters) - South China tigers, among the rarest of the five remaining tiger subspecies, are on the verge of extinction in the wild with less than 30 remaining, Xinhua news agency said on Friday, citing a recent survey.
Scientists from the State Forestry Administration of China and the World Nature Fund conducted the study of the wild tigers, most of which are scattered on mountains along the borders of Jiangxi, Hunan and Guangdong provinces in south China, Xinhua said.
The survey's findings were released at a symposium on South China tigers held in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province.
Xinhua said China had 66 South China tigers raised in 19 zoos but the animals are all offspring of six wild tigers seized in 1956.
The South China tiger, also known as the Chinese tiger, is native to southern China and used to be found in mountain forests in the country's south, east, center and southwest.
But war, hunting and environmental deterioration over the past century has pushed the species to the verge of extinction and it is listed on the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) Red List of endangered species.
International experts predict tigers will disappear by 2010 if they are not protected, Xinhua said. To help save the big cats, China would send five to 10 South China tigers to South Africa to help re-acquaint them with the ways of the wild.
The Chinese tigers and their offspring would be returned to China in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Xinhua said.
The other four tiger subspecies are the Siberian, Bengal, Indochinese and Sumatran tigers.
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