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An assessment of South China tiger reintroduction potential in Hupingshan and Houhe National Nature Reserves, China
Biological Conservation (2015)
  • Yiyuan Qin
  • Philip J. Nyhus, Colby College
  • Courtney L. Larson
  • Charles J.W. Carroll
  • Jeff Muntifering
  • Thomas D. Dahmer
  • Lu Jun
  • Ronald L. Tilson
Human-caused biodiversity loss is a global problem, large carnivores are particularly threatened, and the tiger (Panthera tigris) is among the world’s most endangered large carnivores. The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) is the most critically endangered tiger subspecies and is considered functionally extinct in the wild. The government of China has expressed its intent to reintroduce a small population of South China tigers into a portion of their historic range as part of a larger goal to recover wild tiger populations in China. This would be the world’s first major tiger reintroduction program. A free-ranging population of 15–20 tigers living in a minimum of 1000 km2 of habitat was identified as a target. We assessed summer and winter habitat suitability of two critical prey species, wild boar (Sus scrofa) and Sika deer (Cervus nippon), using GIS spatial models to evaluate the potential for tiger reintroduction in one likely candidate site, the 1100 km2 Hupingshan–Houhe National Nature Reserve complex in Hunan and Hubei Provinces, China. Our preliminary analysis estimates that for wild boar, potential summer and winter habitat availability is 372–714 km2 and 256–690 km2, respectively, whereas for Sika deer,potential summer and winter habitat availability is 443–747 km2 and 257–734 km2, respectively. Our model identifies potential priority areas for release and restoration of prey between 195 and 790 km2 with a carrying capacity of 596–2409 wild boar and 468–1929 Sika deer. Our analysis suggests that Hupingshan–Houhe could support a small population of 2–9 tigers at a density of 1.1–1.2 tigers/ 100 km2 following prey and habitat restorations. Thus, current habitat quality and area would fall short of the target recovery goal. We identify major challenges facing a potential tiger reintroduction project and conclude that restoring the habitat and prey base, addressing concerns of local people, and enhancing coordination across park boundaries are significant challenges to meeting the broader goals of supporting a reintroduced wild tiger population. Tiger range states have committed to doubling the world’s wild tigers by 2022. The results of this study have implications for China’s commitment to this goal and for the future of tiger and other large carnivore reintroduction efforts in Asia and globally.
  • Panthera tigris amoyensis,
  • Reintroduction,
  • Restoration,
  • Conservation,
  • China,
  • Habitat,
  • Wild boar Sus scrofa,
  • Sika deer Cervus nippon,
  • GIS
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This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://
Citation Information
Qin, Y., Nyhus, P.J., Larson, C.L., Carroll, C.J.W., Muntifering, J., Dahmer, T.D., Jun, L., Tilson, R.L., 2015. An assessment of South China tiger reintroduction potential in Hupingshan and Houhe National Nature Reserves, China. Biological Conservation 182, 72-86.