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Your morning adorable: Critically endangered South China tiger cubs

July 13, 2009 | 12:19 pm

South China tiger cubs

At the Wangcheng Zoo in the Chinese province of Henan, four tiger cubs represent new hope for an entire species. The cubs -- three born in late April and one in early May -- are members of the rarest tiger subspecies, the South China tiger.

South China tigers were once labeled "pests" by Mao Tse-tung, who recommended they be killed. Since the time of Mao's reign in China, their numbers have plummeted. Until 2007, when one of the tigers was seen in the wild for the first time since the 1960s, many scientists believed the species to be essentially extinct, surviving only in captivity. Even in captivity, there are reportedly fewer than 100 South China tigers in existence, almost all in a small number of zoos in China.

South China tigers are physically smaller than the more familiar Bengal and Siberian tigers, with more widely spaced stripes. More photos after the jump!

South China tiger cubs

South China tiger cubs

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo (from top): Four tiger cubs at the Wangcheng Zoo in the Chinese province of Henan represent new hope for an entire species. Credit: Associated Press

Photo: Three of the cubs were born in late April and one was born in early May. Credit: Associated Press

Photo: South China tigers are physically smaller than the more familiar Bengal and Siberian tigers, with more widely spaced stripes. Credit: Shang Xiaoli / European Pressphoto Agency

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