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Chinese Tigers begin survival lessons in African wilderness
( 2003-10-11 17:10) (Xinhua)

Two Chinese Tiger cubs sent to South Africa to learn wilderness survival skills last month entered their training base Thursday after passing quarantine, according to the London-based Save China's Tigers (SCT).

The Chinese Tiger
The two tiger cubs, born in the Shanghai Zoo early this year, are the first tigers to have gone to Africa to receive training on survival skills in the wilderness.

The training is part of an agreement between the State Forestry Administration (SFA) of China and SCT, which aims to help save the Chinese Tiger, or panthera tigris amoyensis, one of the most endangered tiger species in the world.

Today, fewer than 30 Chinese Tigers remain in the wild while about 60 are kept in zoos.

The two cubs, a female named Cathay and a male named Hope, will be trained in a 500-hectare base in Makopani to the north of Pretoria, the capital of South Africa.

However, they will first be restricted to a two-hectare area and their territory will be later expanded to 20 hectares and finally to the whole base as they grow up and become more accustomed to life in the wild, said Quan Li, the head of SCT.

The little tigers arrived in Pretoria on Sept. 2 and then were sent to the National Zoo in the capital city for medical examination and quarantine.

Another three to seven Chinese Tigers will join them for training during the next five years.

Zoologists and ecologists, both from China and South Africa, will start working to set up a home for the tigers covering over 100 square kilometers in China this month, where natural vegetation and other animal groups will be introduced.

All the Chinese Tigers that "graduate" from the training program will be sent to the reserve, which is expected to be completed within five years.

China's experience in training tigers to live in the wild has not been very successful, an official with SFA said. "Tigers trained in zoos don't know how to hunt, but this is an essential skill they need to survive in the wild." 

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