Chinese forestry authorities have banned all hunting around a northwestern mountain where a wild South China tiger -- thought to be extinct in the wild for more than three decades -- was spotted earlier this month.
The Forestry Department of Shaanxi Province also ordered checkpoints at the main entrances to the mountain area, in Chengguan Township of Zhenping County, to prevent uncontrolled entry and protect the endangered species and its habitat.
Zhou Zhenglong, 52, a farmer in Chengguan's Wencai Village and former hunter, photographed a South China tiger with a digital camera and on film on the afternoon of October 3, and experts have confirmed the 40 digital pictures and 31 film photographs are genuine.
Lu Xirong, heading a 30-member South China tiger research team in Shaanxi, has said the photos proved that wild South China tigers still exist in China, with about 20 to 30 estimated to be still in the wild.
The research team has carried out surveys in Zhenping since June last year, and it said villagers had reported 17 sightings of South China tigers and heard them six times, but the claims could not be confirmed.
The Forestry Department is considering establishing a nature reserve for the South China tiger in areas around the mountain.
It is also investigating their numbers, habitat conditions and habitat range, and working out an overall protection plan.
(Xinhua News Agency/Shanghai Daily October 17, 2007)