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Siberian tigers in China may disappear

Dec. 5, 2011 at 1:22 AM

BEIJING, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Only 18 to 22 Siberian tigers remain in the wild in northeast China and they may vanish due to poaching of their prey and illegal logging, experts say.

Chinese experts and the World Wide Fund for Nature have said the tigers already are among the planet's most endangered species, China Daily reported Monday. In northeast China, the population of Siberian tigers, also called Amur tigers, stands at about 18 to 22, the newspaper said, down from about 300 in the 1940s.

"If the government fails to take effective measures, it's foreseeable that these creatures could disappear from China within 10 to 20 years," said Zhu Chunquan at the fund's Beijing office.

"The poaching of wild animals, which is the tigers' main food source, is the greatest threat to their survival," he said.

Extensive logging in the mountainous provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin also has sharply reduced the tigers' habitat.

Wildlife hunting in the region was banned in 1996, but since then authorities said they have noticed a big jump in poaching with iron-wire snares to trap red deer, sika deer, wild boars and roe deer, the staple of Amur tigers.

Zhu said such snares can easily be bought locally. The traps also pose a big threat to the tigers.

"A decade ago, we'd see roe deer while driving by [the forests]," said a forest official in Heilongjiang province. "Now it's even rare to see a squirrel."

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