December 25, 2009 | 26
The last Indochinese tiger in China was killed and eaten by a man who has now been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his crime.
The Indochinese tiger (also known as Corbett’s tiger or Panthera tigris corbetti) is an endangered tiger subspecies that used to live in China, but now only exists in Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, where it remains under heavy threat from poachers.
Kang Wannian, the villager from Mengla, Yunnan Province, claims he killed the tiger last February in self-defense. But that didn’t stop him and four others from butchering and eating the animal. His dining mates were also convicted and will spend three to four years in jail for "covering up and concealing criminal gains," according to a Tuesday report in the China National News.
Indochinese tigers are…well, were…legally protected in China. The last time the subspecies was officially seen in the country was 2007, and some believed that Kang killed that tiger. He received a ten-year sentence for killing a rare animal, plus another two years for possessing an illegal firearm.
Population counts for Indochinese tigers are hard to come by. A 1998 census estimated between 736 and 1,225 animals, but it has since been reconsidered and the species has been split into two subspecies, the Indochinese tiger and the Malayan Tiger (P.t. jacksoni), which exists only in Malaysia. Current estimates place the species at fewer than 1,000 individuals (the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species estimates just 630), with increasingly scattered populations due to habitat fragmentation and poaching.
Two other tiger subspecies still exist in China: the Siberian or Amur tiger (P.t. altaica), most of which live in Russia, and the critically endangered South China tiger (P.t. amoyensis), one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Fewer than 20 South China tigers are thought to exist in the wild. (For more about the spread of big cats, see the Scientific American feature article, "The Evolution of Cats.")
Image: Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), via Wikipedia