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Понедельник, 07 Апреля 2008 г. 15:23 + в цитатник

Baby cubs bring hope for South China tigers


By Nigel Blundell
Last Updated: 2:44am BST 07/04/2008
 

 

These two tiny cubs have given hope for the survival of an entire species.

South China Tigers aged 4 days
These tiny South China tiger cubs could help save their species

They are South China Tigers, the most endangered of all the world’s remaining tigers. And it is only down to a unique breeding programme that the animals stand a chance of increasing their dying numbers.

In the early 1950s, there were 4,000 tigers in China. Today there are less than 100 – perhaps only ten in the wild and the rest in zoos. The only hope for their future is a programme to breed a new generation of the beautiful creatures and repopulate China’s plains with the offspring.

Mother Cathay licks one of the South China Tiger cubs just after the birth
Cathay licks one of her cubs shortly after giving birth

The breakthrough came last week with the birth of these two cubs – pictured with eyes partially open but still almost blind – to mother Cathay and father Tiger Woods.

They were born on a reserve in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province run by the charity Save China’s Tigers.

South China Tiger cubs aged 5 days
By day five, the tiny cubs have opened their eyes

Its director, former British-based fashion house executive Li Quan, says: “The birth of these cubs is the vindication of everything we’ve worked for. The South China Tiger is the ancestor tiger to all tiger species in the world, yet it is the most endangered.”

Li Quan and her husband, investment banker Stuart Bray, launched Save China's Tigers in London in 2000 and bought 33,000-hectares to establish their Loahu Valley Reserve. Says Li Quan, 45: “Breeding of the species had been attempted in China but without success – which doesn’t surprise me given the miserable conditions many of the tigers are kept in.

“So we came to South Africa, because it is the leader in hands-on conservation projects. “We take tigers out of zoos, breed them and release them back in the wild after re-training them in hunting skills.”

South China Tigers Cathay and Tiger Woods
Loving parents: Cathay and Tiger Woods

An agreement was signed with the Chinese government in 2002 to ‘rehabitate’ the tigers in pilot reserves in Hunan and Jiangsu provinces, Southern China. Seeming success for the charity came last November when Cathay gave birth to the first-ever of her species born outside China. But she rejected the cub and it had to be hand-reared, making it unsuitable for release into the wild.

South China Tigers Cathay and Tiger Woods play
Cathay and Tiger Woods play affectionately

“It was a bitter blow,” said Li Quan. “But the new cubs have been accepted by Cathay and she is suckling them.” Within a few days another birth is expected, this time Tiger Woods and Madonna being the unlikely-named parents.

Li Quan addd: “We hope to start returning tigers to the wild within the next two years. Meanwhile, we hope that the Beijing Olympic Games will generate awareness of their plight.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/04/06/ntiger106.xml
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