GUANGZHOU, Nov. 17 (Xinhua): The south China tigers, a species native to south China, might be extinct in the wild, experts have warned.
"It's just a matter of time that wild south China tigers will die out," said Wang Xingjin, Director of the Research Centre of Guangzhou Zoo.
Only 68 south China tigers remained in 18 zoos across China, said zoologist Huang Zhihong.
Those tigers were descended from two male and four female tigers caught in 1950s and 1970s and are all closely related, said Huang.
"If we can't find any wild south China tigers, they will certainly disappear because of the in-breeding," said Huang.
A scientific expedition initiated by the South China Institute of Endangered Animals to find south China tigers began in October, but chances of success were slim, said Huang.
A programme to preserve the fibre cells of the tiger has been begun to clone the tiger using living cells once the technology is mature, said Huang.
The programme is being carried out by Guangzhou Zoo and South China Agricultural University.
"Even if the south China tiger becomes extinct, there's still hope we will see the tiger again as long as the genes are preserved," said Wang Xingjin.
The south China tiger, from which other sub-species such as the Siberian Tiger evolved, has been listed as one of the world's 10 most endangered animals.