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Last Updated: Friday, 15 August, 2003, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Tiger cubs sent to hunting school
South China tiger cub
South China tigers are in danger of extinction
Two South China tiger cubs are being sent to South Africa to get back in contact with their hunting instincts.

The tigers are being despatched by Shanghai Zoo, where they were born, because officials are concerned they will lose touch with their urge to kill.

In South Africa they will be trained in a 30-square-kilometre area where they will hunt wild animals.

After initially being guided by trainers, they will eventually learn how to live by themselves, according to Lu Jun, the forestry official in charge of the programme.

On their return to China in 2008, the tigers will be housed in a purpose-built conservation park.

Lu Jun told the China Daily that two Bengal tigers had benefited from a similar programme.

Before going to South Africa it took them as long as 40 minutes to kill an antelope but by the end of their course, they had the kill down to 20 seconds, he said.

Attempts to develop tigers' killer instincts at a nature reserve in China have been unsuccessful due to lack of space and trainers to teach the tigers.

There are about 60 South China tigers in captivity, and fewer than 30 are estimated to be wild.

The dwindling number of free-roaming tigers means individuals are unlikely to find a mate and the species could die out in the wild altogether.

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