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Numbers show slight population recovery

(China Daily)

10:04, July 27, 2013

BEIJING, July 27 (Xinhuanet) -- A decline in the tiger population has been reversed, according to Yan Xun, China's top wildlife official.

The latest wildlife census shows the number of wild Siberian tigers in China has risen from between 12 and 16 in 2000 to between 18 and 22.

"This is due to better protection of their habitat and prey," he said. "Tigers are on top of the ecological chain, but there are more difficulties in conserving tigers than other rare species," said Yan, the State Forestry Administration's chief engineer for wildlife conservation.

Wild tigers can thrive in an extremely wide variety of natural habitats, but they need to be relatively undisturbed, with an abundant supply of large animals for prey. An adult tiger needs about 3,000 kg of food a year. This translates roughly into one deer-sized animal every week, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

One successful example is the increasing number of Siberian tigers in Northeast China.

The key to a healthy tiger population is healthy animals for prey, or the prey base, as it is known by scientists.

"The larger the prey base in a forest, the more tigers it can support," said Fan Zhiyong, director of the species program at the World Wide Fund for Nature in China.

Stopping illegal trading in tigers is also a key task, according to Hua Ning, China program director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

"If there is no trade, there is no slaughter," she said. "It may take hundreds of years to recover a forest, but stopping illegal trading in wild tigers can start now."

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