While Chinese are figuring out whether the photos by a farmer photographer of a South China tiger are real or not, China is not yet ready to announce that the species is extinct in the country even though some international organizations have said so.
But the consensus seems to be, the dramatic drop in the number of the major tiger species in China has to do with human activities. Unlike the giant panda, the South China tiger, along with three other types of tigers in China, is very fertile. Now the South China tigers seen in China are all descendants of six from the 1950s. And most of these live animals, which number less than 100, are kept in a captive environment. Another species, the Northeastern tiger, is also dying out, with less than 20 in China (only 400 exist globally, including in the Russian far east).
In Guilin, Guangxi Province, a private businessman has attracted some attention with his 1,300 tigers in his plantation of tigers and bears. Feeding so many animals has strained his finances, and most of the tigers are only fed 60% full. The revenues to the plantation have been well shy of breaking the business even. Zhou Weisen (Âë®‰ºüÊ£Æ), the owner, lately resorted to providing tiger meat and tiger bone wine to his customers, sparking a controversy.
Zhou asked for help from provincial and national authorities, but to no avail. His letters to Guangxi and Beijing to seek permission to release some of his animals to the wild have been turned down, over concerns that tigers might injure humans. And his requests to donate tigers to zoos or other authorities have also been rejected. The price for tigers is going through the roof but laws ban tiger trading, so Zhou has become rich only on paper.
A piece of tiger fur, for example, can sell for $15,000. A skeleton of a tiger goes for around $100,000. A kilo of tiger meat, about 300 yuan (about $40). And there are restaurants in Guilin that cater to that exotic taste. Red-stewed tiger meat sells for 588 yuan, another flavor 1,680 yuan per plate. As the black market for tiger goes, Zhou would be worth $260 million with all his tigers. But he has been running in the red for years, with 40 million yuan just for the tigers’ food a year. [Full Text in Chinese]