Return Of The South China Tiger

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0120120228

Li Quan, a petite, former international fashion executive, was born in Beijing in the year of the Tiger, and seems an unlikely conservationist. With no formal conservation background, Li and her wealthy investment banker husband turned their backs on the corporate world and dug deep into their own pockets to try to save the South China Tiger from extinction.

These highly endangered tigers have not been seen in the wild for many years, and there are fewer than 60 left in Chinese zoos.

Arguing that time for the tigers was running out fast, in 2003 Li persuaded the Chinese authorities to lend her Hope and Cathay, two precious zoo-bred cubs. She flew them to South Africa to start a new life on the grasslands of the Karoo, where they could learn to hunt and breed in the wild again. Ultimately, their offspring would then be sent back to specially created wildlife reserves in China.

A year later, two more cubs called Tiger Woods and Madonna followed. Born in captivity, these cubs had never walked on grass before and were only used to ready meals. Madonna was definitely a virgin and Tiger Woods decidedly under par, but slowly they learnt to hunt for themselves.

This original Gang of Four has now increased to 14, all of whom have proved to be proficient predators in the wild.

Flying tigers half way round the world to start a new life in a new continent was a high risk and controversial plan. The project has faced opposition from conservationists who argue that the project is foolhardy and reintroduction should only be done in the animals' natural environment - in China not Africa.

Sue Armstrong investigates whether this pioneering project has any prospect of saving one of the world's most endangered species.

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

Sue Armstrong reports on a daring plan to save the South China tiger from extinction.

0120120301

Li Quan, a petite, former international fashion executive, was born in Beijing in the year of the Tiger, and seems an unlikely conservationist. With no formal conservation background, Li and her wealthy investment banker husband turned their backs on the corporate world and dug deep into their own pockets to try to save the South China Tiger from extinction.

These highly endangered tigers have not been seen in the wild for many years, and there are fewer than 60 left in Chinese zoos.

Arguing that time for the tigers was running out fast, in 2003 Li persuaded the Chinese authorities to lend her Hope and Cathay, two precious zoo-bred cubs. She flew them to South Africa to start a new life on the grasslands of the Karoo, where they could learn to hunt and breed in the wild again. Ultimately, their offspring would then be sent back to specially created wildlife reserves in China.

A year later, two more cubs called Tiger Woods and Madonna followed. Born in captivity, these cubs had never walked on grass before and were only used to ready meals. Madonna was definitely a virgin and Tiger Woods decidedly under par, but slowly they learnt to hunt for themselves.

This original Gang of Four has now increased to 14, all of whom have proved to be proficient predators in the wild.

Flying tigers half way round the world to start a new life in a new continent was a high risk and controversial plan. The project has faced opposition from conservationists who argue that the project is foolhardy and reintroduction should only be done in the animals' natural environment - in China not Africa.

Sue Armstrong investigates whether this pioneering project has any prospect of saving one of the world's most endangered species.

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

Sue Armstrong reports on a daring plan to save the South China tiger from extinction.

02 LASTBack To China20120306

Ten Years ago, Li Quan - a petite former fashion executive --and her American multi-millionaire banker husband, turned their backs on the corporate world and, decided to use their personal wealth to try to save the South China tiger from extinction.

With no formal qualifications or conservation background, Li persuaded the Chinese authorities to lend her two precious zoo-bred tigers, to be shipped to a reserve in South Africa. There the tigers could learn to hunt and breed in the wild again. Their offspring would then be sent back to specially created wildlife reserves in China.

It was a daring plan, and widely criticised for being too risky and too costly. But ten years on, there are now 14 tigers in South Africa, six of them born in the last year, and all have proved proficient hunters.

The next stage of the project is to establish a wildlife reserve in China where the second generation cubs can be returned. Several possible sites have been selected, and prey animals would also have to be introduced for the tigers to hunt. It is a challenging task.

Depending on the site chosen by the Chinese government, thousands of people may have to be moved in order to make way for the tigers, and there is still the unresolved problem of poaching in a country where tiger blood and body parts are highly prized for Chinese medicine, despite being illegal since 1993.

Sue Armstrong asks whether this pioneering project has any prospect of saving one of the world's most endangered species?

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

Sue Armstrong reports on a controversial attempt to save the South China tiger.

02 LASTBack To China20120308

Ten Years ago, Li Quan - a petite former fashion executive --and her American multi-millionaire banker husband, turned their backs on the corporate world and, decided to use their personal wealth to try to save the South China tiger from extinction.

With no formal qualifications or conservation background, Li persuaded the Chinese authorities to lend her two precious zoo-bred tigers, to be shipped to a reserve in South Africa. There the tigers could learn to hunt and breed in the wild again. Their offspring would then be sent back to specially created wildlife reserves in China.

It was a daring plan, and widely criticised for being too risky and too costly. But ten years on, there are now 14 tigers in South Africa, six of them born in the last year, and all have proved proficient hunters.

The next stage of the project is to establish a wildlife reserve in China where the second generation cubs can be returned. Several possible sites have been selected, and prey animals would also have to be introduced for the tigers to hunt. It is a challenging task.

Depending on the site chosen by the Chinese government, thousands of people may have to be moved in order to make way for the tigers, and there is still the unresolved problem of poaching in a country where tiger blood and body parts are highly prized for Chinese medicine, despite being illegal since 1993.

Sue Armstrong asks whether this pioneering project has any prospect of saving one of the world's most endangered species?

Producer: Ruth Evans

A Ruth Evans production for BBC Radio 4.

Sue Armstrong reports on a controversial attempt to save the South China tiger.