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Interesting Facts About the South China Tiger

Shweta Ajwani
The South China tiger, also known as the Amoy tiger, South Chinese tiger, or Xiamen tiger, has been listed as a 'critically endangered' species by the IUCN since 1996. Read more about the limited existence, possible extinction, and other facts about the South China tiger here.

The Return of Karma!

A species which now needs to be protected and conserved the most, the South China Tiger was once hunted and killed recklessly as a common pest!
The South China Tiger is considered to be a 'stem' tiger, one from which the rest of the tiger subspecies have descended. It is a comparatively smaller tiger subspecies. More specifically, it is the smallest tiger subspecies in mainland Asia. Its scientific name is Panthera tigris amoyensis.
It is scientifically classified as:

Class:- Mammalia
Order:- Carnivora
Family:- Felidae
Subfamily:- Pantherinae
Genus:- Panthera
Species:- P. Tigris
Subspecies:- P. t. Amoyensis
The South China tiger is native to most parts of Southern China like Hunan, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong. Almost on the verge of extinction, this species is described as the most distinctive of the tiger species with respect to morphology.
A detailed description of the general characteristics, habitat, reproduction, temperament and behavior, and conservation status of the South China tiger is given below.

Physical Appearance

Initially, according to Max Hilzheimer, a German zoologist, the South China tiger was found to be of the same height as the Bengal tiger, although it sported differing skull and coat characteristics. They can be easily distinguished from other tiger subspecies because of their shorter fur, longer nose, broader skull, and narrower face. Also, these subspecies are known to have the least number of black stripes on their body.
The skull of a South China tiger is relatively larger as compared to its slim body and tender waist. The ratio of the skull to the body is more than in any of the other tiger species.
Their coat is yellowish in color, as opposed to the Bengal tiger's bright orange. The black stripes on their thick fur coat are farther apart from each other, narrower, pointy-edged, and more in number, making the coat more attractive in appearance.
The average adult male South China tiger measures 230 to 265 centimeters (91 to 104 inches) from head to tail. It weighs anywhere between 130 - 175 kg (290 - 390 lb). The longest skull measured in a male tiger has been 318 to 343 mm (12.5 to 13.5 inches).
The average adult female is smaller and measures 220 to 240 centimeters (87 to 94 inches) from head to tail. It is lighter and weighs 110 to 115 kg (240 to 250 lb). The longest skull measured in a female tiger has been 273 to 301 mm (10.7 to 11.9 inches).


South China tigers were known to inhabit areas in southeast China which included Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, and Jiangxi. Rumors of its possible extinction have only been on the rise in the past few years. If South China tigers do exist, then they would be found only in the sub-tropical forests of south-eastern China.

Behavior and Temperament

South China tigers are extremely fond of water; contradictory to the basic myth that wild cats prefer to stay as far away from water as possible. South China tigers are excellent swimmers, and are capable of hunting and killing prey in water.
They are mostly nocturnal (preferably active during the night). Like other tiger subspecies, South China tigers are known to lead solitary lives except during the mating season. They display extreme territorial behavior and react fiercely if their territory is encroached upon.


The South China tiger is a carnivorous predator which hunts mostly during the night. Its short and small stature is suited for hunting smaller prey.
The tiger can run at a speed of 35 miles per hour to chase and hunt down its prey. It can be quiet diligent and can wait for hours until it catches the prey off-guard. Its diet consists mainly of bigger mammals like cows, pigs, goats, deer, and wild boar.
The South China tiger is also known to feed on wild prey like sambar, wild pig, tufted deer, and serow, and can consume 40 - 90 lbs. of meat at one go.

The South China tiger was once labeled as a 'man-eater' as it killed humans for food. This was due to the encroachment of human civilization into its natural habitat, which diminished the number of natural prey for the tiger to feast on.


The South China tiger is a territorial and solitary being. It dwells and hunts alone. The only period when the tigers thrive together is during the mating season. South China tigers usually mate during the winter or spring season. The gestation period does not last longer than three or three and a half months. The female gives birth to a litter of 3 - 4 cubs.
The new-born cubs weigh not more than 3 pounds and are blind, weak, and helpless at birth. They feed on their mother's milk for the first 8 - 9 weeks. The mother feeds them until they are ready to hunt on their own. They start hunting after reaching 18 months of age, and become fully independent at 2 years of age.


A South China tiger is believed to be able to live a healthy life for 15 years in the wild. In captivity, when provided with appropriate care and nourishment, it can live for up to 20 years.

Population Decline

Like it has been explained before, the South China tiger is one of top ten most endangered species of the world. It was only a few decades back, during the 1950s to be precise, that the number of South China tigers around the world was approximately 4,000. This number, however, has dwindled down to less than 100 today.
The major cause for this decrease in population has been the reckless hunting and killing of the South China tiger as a pest. The tiger was actually killed in large numbers as it was thought to be a 'pest' to the human civilization. The decline in the population of this species has also been attributed to other causes like destruction of its natural habitat, decrease in the density of its prey, and poaching and killing for its skin and body parts.

Conservation Status

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), a total of 47 South China tigers are distributed among 18 zoos, all in China. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the South China tiger as 'critically endangered'. The WWF thinks that this species is 'functionally extinct'. Another report suggests that no South China tiger has been sighted in the past 25 years.
This is a matter of huge concern and the authorities in China are working hard to save these tigers. Special rewilding projects, that require some South China tigers to be released in to the wild for mating and reproduction, are being planned and sanctioned. However, lack of existing protected areas or large natural habitats in which the tigers can breed reduces the possibility of these plans being successful.
'Hope keeps us going.' Although it seems difficult, it is definitely not impossible to revive the population of this majestic species. The conservation of the South China tiger species is the need of the hour. Many animal welfare organizations have come up with programs and initiatives that aim at reintroducing these tigers into the wild and increasing their population.