Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Controversial Project to "Rewild" Chinese Tigers

Here is another great example of the frequent conflict between wildlife conservation and animal rights. In this particular case, while I understand and relate to the animal welfare position espoused by some groups, I think that the overall survival of an endangered species must take precedence. I'm not saying the program in this article will succeed, but sometimes the survival of the many calls for the sacrifice of the few (sorry, I think I'm channeling Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan).

The project, run by the charity Save China’s Tigers and set on a 33,000-hectare ranch in South Africa’s Free State Province, basically tries to “teach” the big cats to hunt for themselves and other survival skills. It is the brainchild of an energetic Chinese woman named Li Quan.

The hope is that the adult tigers will impart their acquired skills to their offspring which can then be released into the wild in China. Estimates and data are scanty but there are only believed to be around 10 to 30 individuals left in the wild of the Chinese sub-species of the tiger family, also known as the South China tiger.

The problem in the eyes of some animal welfare groups is that the tigers are being trained to hunt through the use of live animals such blesbok, a kind of antelope, which are released into a 40-hectare camp.

South Africa’s SPCA claims in a statement on its website that “Life Feeding - It Happens Here” and has taken the issue to the courts.

“It is a spurious argument that carnivores need to be fed animals, live. Not in captivity they don’t!,” the SPCA, which regards the practice as cruel, says.

Photo by wAlanb.

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