The South China tiger population was estimated to number 4,000 individuals in the early 1950s. In the next few decades, thousands were killed as the subspecies was hunted as a pest. The Chinese government banned hunting in 1979. By 1996 the population was estimated to be just 30-80 individuals.
Today the South China tiger is considered by scientists to be “functionally extinct,” as it has not been sighted in the wild for more than 25 years.
South China tigers are a reminder that the threat against the world’s tiger is an urgent one. Today, South China tigers are found in zoos and in South Africa where there are plans to reintroduce captive-bred tigers back into the wild.
If any South China tigers remain in the wild, these few individuals would be found in montane sub-tropical evergreen forest of southeast China, close to provincial borders. The habitat is highly fragmented, with most blocks smaller than 200 square miles and not large enough to sustain a tiger population.