Return of rare tigers to China delayed: government

Return of rare tigers to China delayed: government
BEIJING (AFP) ? The return to China of four endangered tigers from a South African wildlife training programme has been delayed because their sanctuaries are not ready yet, an official said Monday in Beijing.
Completion of the two sanctuaries for the South China tigers has been held up mainly by a failure to relocate people currently living in the area, Lu Jun, an official with the State Forestry Administration, told a briefing.
“The plan for the return of the Chinese tigers in 2008 has been delayed as migration problems have hampered the implementation of the (local sanctuaries) programme,” he said. “There is no timetable for the return yet.”
Since 2003 China has sent five South China tiger cubs from local zoos to a nature reserve in South Africa where they were taught how to hunt for their own food.
One male cub died in 2005 from a disease. The others were expected to come back this year and be released in the two sanctuaries to be built in Jiangxi province in the east and the central province of Hunan.
Officials plan to spend at least 20 million dollars, partly to move local residents out of an area totalling 250 square kilometres (100 square miles), to make space for the sanctuaries.
“Investors would rather provide money for the construction of a reserve itself than give financial support to the related relocation programme,” Lu told AFP.
The tiger species is a critically endangered animal native to southern China. There are 72 living in Chinese zoos while a survey at the end of 1990s estimated that about 20 of the animals remained in the wild, Lu said.

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