AboutZoos, Since 2008


Next-​generation Amur tigers to breed in China’s wild

pub­lished 24 Decem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 24 Decem­ber 2012
amur tigerThe Siber­ian Tiger Park in Hei­longjiang, a lead­ing breed­ing cen­tre for the endan­gered Amur or Siber­ian tigers announced recently that they are plan­ning to let captive-​bred Amur tigers breed in the wild.

A seven-​year-​old tigress gave birth to a female cub on July 25, 2011, which was the first suc­cess­ful breed­ing of an Amur tiger in the wild in China. In this case the wild is a huge fenced area, where they pre­pare and train the ani­mals for the ‘real thing’. This soft release method of rein­tro­duc­ing cap­tive bred ani­mals in the wild has been suc­cess­ful for rein­tro­duc­ing wolves in Yel­low­stone Park in the USA.

This cub, now one and a half years old, will play the lead­ing role in the wild breed­ing plan of the next-​generation tigers
Liu Dan, chief engi­neer of the Hei­longjiang Siber­ian Tiger Gar­den »

The ado­les­cent female is cur­rently over 70 cm long and weights more than 50 kg. Its phys­i­cal agility and cold resis­tance abil­ity is supe­rior to its peers due to wild train­ing, Liu Dan, chief engi­neer of the Hei­longjiang Siber­ian Tiger Gar­den, said. A male Amur tiger will join the female tiger in the free-​roaming area.

Breed­ing and liv­ing in the wild is key for the tigers to famil­iarise them­selves with the rough con­di­tions in the wild to be able to return to the moun­tains. The wild breed­ing of the next-​generation Amur tigers is another attempt to restore the tigers’ wild nature and is cru­cial in pro­tect­ing the species, accord­ing to Liu Dan.

Amur tigers are one of the world’s rarest mam­mal species. Only 300 are believed to be liv­ing in the wild, with 20 in north­east China.

The Siber­ian Tiger Park was estab­lished in 1986. It sup­ports the world’s largest breed­ing facil­ity for Amur tigers. The park is located north­west of Harbin, occu­py­ing an area of 144 hectares. On the premises there are over 500 pure­bred Amur tigers, of which about 100 spec­i­mens are on dis­play for vis­i­tors. In addi­tion, vis­i­tors can view white tigers, lions, lynx, leop­ards, pumas and Ben­gal tigers.

In China the park is con­sid­ered an eco­tourist attrac­tion pro­vid­ing beau­ti­ful scenery, mak­ing it an ideal place for hol­i­day and leisure. When read­ing sev­eral blogs of peo­ple with a more west­ern point of view there is some crit­i­cism about the way the ani­mals are fed, and the con­duct of Chi­nese vis­i­tors. Espe­cially the Park’s feed­ing enrich­ment is some­thing that has been aban­doned by many zoos of the zoo com­mu­nity world­wide, such as mem­bers of the World Asso­ci­a­tion of Zoos and Aquar­i­ums (WAZA). Vis­i­tors of the Park in Hei­longjiang can buy live ani­mals, such as ducks, chick­ens and cows, that will be set free in the tigers’ enclo­sures to pro­vide vis­i­tors the unique oppor­tu­nity of see­ing tigers prey upon these live ani­mals. Live feed­ing is nec­es­sary when train­ing a captive-​bred ani­mal to recog­nise prey, and learn how to catch and kill it, but oth­er­wise it is less accept­able in most coun­tries.

This is how live feed­ing for enter­tain­ment looks like (not a pleas­ant sight!):

(Source: China​.org​.cn envi­ron­ment news, 18.12.2012; Trav​elChi​naGuide​.com; tri​pad​vi​sor​.co​.uk)
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Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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