Friday, 28 March 2008

Genes and Testosterone

I managed to find a little bit of time to have a better read of the recent messages left on my blog last night. I know I am repeating myself with the same limited vocabulary here but I just want to say, yet again, that I am moved by all your messages! I want to say to all of you, both to my supporters and to my sceptics, that I thank you for leaving me messages which I really enjoy reading. I am sorry I can't reply to all of you one by one, given the limited internet access I have now in South Africa.

But I want to let you know what I feel: I feel proud of you for sharing the same sentiment for China's Tigers. I feel grateful to and protected by you to come to my defence. I feel encouraged by you with all your praises and encouragement. I feel hopeful for China's nature knowing I can count on your support. I want to let you know that I will try my best not to disappoint you - I won't give up. I would like to meet you, all of you, and I promise we will do that when we celebrate the establishment of the China Tiger Foundation. Speaking of supporters, it is always fun to see our delightful friend Dr. H. M., who despite recent troubles remains cheerful and humourous. H, being the Chief Ecologist, is the second in command at a major State Wildlife organization. He has been supportive of our efforts from the very start when he learned of our objectives of saving the South China Tiger and its habitat, using SA as a springboard for its land, game and expertise etc. He shared with us his views of the genetics issues when we spoke about our project. Through doing a study of Indian Wolves which bred to over 700 individuals from just two, the researchers has observed that there were some physically defective individuals born when the numbers reached about 300 from 2, but such defects actually disappear as the numbers further increase.

I have been informed of other similar studies before. For example, a moose (an ungulate) had prospered on an island off Greenland from just 2 individuals to 1000 in hundred years, with no genetic defects found. Also all the David's Deer are descended from a dozen or so ancestors brought out of China over hundred years ago which then thrived in Europe. H also commented that research shows that the testosterone levels of captive animals decline significantly in small confined conditions, which I had always made comparisons as free man versus prisoners. This could partly explain why the South China Tigers in Chinese Zoos have been experiencing a huge hurdle in breeding but why TigerWoods in a natural environment here in SA has been keen to mate, and successfully! Even married human males have highly reduced testosterone levels, which make them better fathers.

H's research obviously added weight to my otherwise layman's instinctive speculation, coming out of observations of animal and human species. I am pleased to know, however, that academic studies in this case support a layman's empirical observations, which has actually led to our program of Rewilding and breeding the South China Tigers in natural environment in South Africa.
March 28th 2008

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Eventful March

I have been very occupied recently and no chance to write a blog. Just to keep my readers posted, I have been in South Africa and there have been many projects that reader friends will no doubt hear in the next month or so.
We have had to evaluate all the over 7600 names for Junior and select just one! It has proven to be a humongous undertaking to select just one name out of many good suggestions. We also need to make sure it is a unique name that has not been used by anyone so it is special, since our Junior is VERY special.
I saw Junior last week, and he was 16 kilos and I could now barely lift him up. He is still very playful and was excited to see us -his playmates - visiting him. I took the precaution of bringing my leather jacket so he could not leave any teeth marks on my arms but I was still bruised on my legs. He was inexhaustible. Eddie told me that his idea of putting Junior together with the little lioness in her enclosure did not work the first time, as the little lioness continued to charge and threaten Junior, who just showed submissiveness. Eddie promised to give another try by bringing the little lioness to Junior's territory.
March has been a month of eventfulness. A fantastic in-depth front page Column 1 story was published in the Los Angeles Times on our project. This was another triumph after our project was covered a couple of years ago in the Christian Science Monitor and Chicago Tribune in the US and it goes to show how much the public supports us.
However, the unfortunate event was that I found out that the SPCA of South Africa, issued a press release back in January, equating our efforts to live feeding in zoos in China for the entertainment of zoo visitors and announced its renewed effort to appeal in the High Court of Appeals. After years of failed attempt to incriminate us and lost civil case against us (the SPCA was ordered to pay our cost), one would have thought that the SPCA would now focus the much needed donor funding on so many animal abuses such as Battery farming, and canned lion hunting. But no, the SPCA decides to spend more donor money on continued legal fight against our conservation project. I am however very pleased at the letters of suport we have received from the public in reply to our public response to the SPCA and the outrage at the SPCA's abuse of donor funding. However, we have yet to receive a letter of apology or retraction from the SPCA regarding its defamatory remarks against us as of now.
I also did something totally out of character, considering that I am not a fan of cars and prefer public transportation. Thinking that this might be the last time we could call Cape Town HOME, we splashed a little and rented a replica Cobra- a powerful 1960's sports car - instead of a normal Alamo rental. It proved to be a fun experience, driving along the azure seashore of Cape Town and the scenic routes of its wine countries. The roars it made sounded as if we were driving at the speed of a airplane and it turned heads. People would look with a sense of bewilderment when they saw a mad Chinese woman in patent white rain coat behind its steering wheel...
Meanwhile, all else is proceeding well. I am looking forward to all the exciting news coming soon!

Friday, 7 March 2008

Fighting for Chinese tigers, and the last word

I am honoured that Los Angeles Times reported our project today in Column One, Front Page today. I thank Los Angeles Times for considering our project a worthwhile one.

"A Beijing-born former fashion executive is on a quest to bring the South China tiger back from the brink of extinction through her reserve in South Africa and silence her detractors.

By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer March 7, 2008

PHILIPPOLIS, SOUTH AFRICA -- He is a magnificent animal, his coat a glossy amber, his fangs long and sharp. He flicks his long tail and paces restlessly up and down beside the bars of the cage.

Click here for full article:,1,6656323.story?ctrack=3&cset=true

Monday, 3 March 2008

“Escaping” Mother Tiger

April 1: Third Day All Calm
Morning: one cub was suckling on one nipple and another one battled to get to the same one and tried to push the first cub away. The first cub held on and the second cub pushed him. They nearly had a fight and the commotion alerted Cathay who lifted her head to watch.. The cubs calmed down each having a nipple to suckle from.
I noticed Cathay would get up and go to the outer cage to sun a bit when it is quiet and when she feels safe to leave her babies asleep for a moment. When she comes back, she always give them that endearing greeting of chuffing. She is so gentle with the cubs and aware what her sharp teeth could do to the vunerable babies and I feel that she was almost in pain by being so careful in trying to control the width of her mouth so as not to hurt the cubs when she was carrying them in her mouth.. The sound she uttered when she licked them this afternoon were to my ears full of love and emotions. When one of the cubs was straying a bit, she gently picked it up with her mouth and gently gently moved it a bit. I just can't reconcile the strengths and deadliness of her bites with such gentleness and care.
Cathay normally gets hungry in late afternoon. She would get up and start pacing. We use this opportunity to let her out into the quarantine camp for a stroll before dinner. When she is eating, asa she hears a little cry from her babies, she would stop eating, chuff at them and listen carefully, and resume eating if no more cries are heard. The cubs are very quiet and rarely cry though.
April 2. Love Spray
All as usual. Mother Cathay suckling cubs calmly...
We can't tell the cubs' gender yet since mother is rearing them and we don't want touch the cubs which may increase risks of mother rejecting them due to strange smells. The cubs are smaller than their brother Junior born last November.
She was in the outer cage when I came to visit. The cubs were on their own. While I watched the cubs, Cathay continued to chuff at me. Then she sprayed at me all of a sudden, and I did not have time to shun the spray. She continued to spray at me through the cage, a behaviour that marks me as her territory.! I can't but say I feel proud, even though my camera and my legs were now covered with her matter.
April 3 - "Escaping Tigress"
Every day we let Cathay out of the breeding center in the morning for a stroll in the quarantine camp, and another one in late afternoon right before dinner. This afternoon, at around the same time, Cathay started pacing, waiting for staff to lift the gate up and let her out. However, the cubs kept on crying for her and she would always hurry back to her "den". When staff finally opened the gate, Cathay only managed to step out for a few seconds before the cubs cried again. She hurriedly went back to suckle them. The cubs are growing and now need to eat more often, whcih is becoming more demanding on Cathay, who has less and less time to go out for strolls. You can see how hesitant she was-wanting to go out in the camp and attending the cubs' need at the same time. I felt sorry for her! However, she was never resentful of the cubs for her lack of freedom when she comes back to them and would suckle and and handle them with love and care.
After another attempt to go out, she settled back in her den again and suckled her crying cubs. We had forgot to close the gate due to the work needed to be done with Madonna. When a visiting guest arrived, we went to see Cathay. She was still suckling but the cubs were quieter now. She picked up one of her cubs just like many other times she had done to move them around a bit. But this time, when she turned around, she saw the gate wide open. Instead of putting the cub on the den's floor, she walked out of the gate carrying her cub in her mouth before I could react to what she did!
The gate system at breeding center is kind of complicated and the outer gates could only be closed from outside. By the time I alerted Tigris to come to close the gate, Cathay had dropped her first cub in the grass, come back in her den and picked up the second cub. She was angry we shut her in while her first cub was outside, so we let her out, thinking that she would just need a walk and would come back in to have dinner. How wrong we were!!!
For the next two hours, it was a battle to get her back in. She paced along the fence carrying one cub or another in turn, with 327 whining and chuffing in the neighbouring camp. As it got darker, we were battling to attract Cathay's atteniton with her food- to which she showed no interests. Her wild instinct had all kicked back in the dark and she just wanted to go out. The cub left behind would cry hard for a while but when it stopped crying, we could not see where this tiny creature was lying in the dark.
While I was trying to pursuade Cathay to come back into the breeding center with a blesbok leg bone in my hand, Tigris had managed to get 327 into the 4 hectare camp. 327, who remarkably went inside this camp that he had never been inside before. I must say 327 has a amazing ability to adapt, after he has been "forced" into the natual area and I regret that we did not do this earlier.
However, no matter what we tried, Cathay just continued pacing. An hour and half had passed and it was completely dark, with just the milky way shining in the sky. Just when I was getting desperate, my guest Joel said, "why don't you turn on the vehicle light to see better?". Suddenly I clicked! I drove the two vehicles into two different positions to light up the areas of the quarantine camp where Cathay was pacing. Seeing the lit camp, Cathay felt unsafe and tried to avoid the light which kept on shining on her. Eventually, she did not have much choice, but to head back into Cage 4 of the Breeding center to avoid light! We picked up her other cub from the grass in a towel and returned it to the den in Cage 2. In her hurry to get to this cub, Cathay left her first cub on the floor of Cage 4 while she was already shut inside her own cage 1. Gates opening and closing again and again. She went back to cage 4 to pick the cub up, only to accidently push it out of the cage from underneath the bars! We hurried go to pick this one up too and returned it to the den for her, after more cage gates opening and closings. But Cathay had now decided to use the den in the outer cage (No.4) so we left her alone...
It was a scary eye-opening experience! We just learn everyday about these smart creatures and I continue trying to get inside their brain but continue to fail! That is why I love cats-big or small, wild or domestic!
April 4: Returning to Normal
After last night's scare, we decided to shut all the three gates of the breeding center where Cathay and cubs are staying so she won't be able to see the passing vehicles or staff. We need to re-condition her to use the inner cage as it provides shelter from sun and cold. She still wanted to go outisde. Sometimes she paced with the cub in her mouth, but later afternoon, she was seen suckling the cubs, calmly, even though still in the outer cage 1. As the demand for her milk increases, she is going to have less and less chance to go out and it is natural she wants to take the demanding cubs with her. But with so many uncertainties, we simply can't afford to let her have her totaly wild ways at the moment to ensure the survival of the cubs. In the wild, out of one little of cubs, only one survive out of two or three, lost to all kinds of natural dangers such as snakes (of which we have plenty at Laohu), porcupines, Jackals, etc). With the need to increase the South China Tigers numbers, we have to do everything within our power to ensure the survival of every cub.
Li Quan
From Laohu Valley
South Africa