The South China tiger is the smallest of all the tiger subspecies, and it is the most critically endangered. Little is know about their exact numbers in the wild, but some estimates would put the number at under 20 tigers. Others would say that estimate is high. The reality is that no South China tiger has been seen in the wild for the last 20 years.
Yet in the 1970’s, it was estimated there were over 4,000 South China tigers in the wild living mostly in central and eastern China. However they were considered ‘pests’ by the Chinese government and quickly hunted to their current status of being on the brink of extinction.
The captive situation for the South China tiger is not much better than their situation in the wild. According to mid-1990’s documents, there are fewer than 50 South China tigers in captivity. These are all descendents from six wild tigers. An ‘ideal’ captive breeding situation would mean having over 120 tigers descending from 30 wild tigers.
The future does not look promising for the South China tiger and it may be the next tiger subspecies to become extinct.