The Chinese Tiger Project continues to move forward with the reintroduction of cheetah at Laohu Valley Reserve, new cubs being born and more scientific workshops with partners

Another significant milestone for the Laohu Valley Reserve (LVR) and the Free State is the return of wild Cheetahs to the lands of the reserve as part of a special partnership project of Conservation Finance International and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.


Cheetahs Return

Cheetahs Return to Laohu Valley Reserve & The Free State

 The reintroduction of a predator species such as the cheetah to the ecosystem is an important step to complete an ambitious program of restoration efforts at LVR.  The two male cheetahs were provided by the Endangered Wildlife Trust which is dedicated to conserving threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa to the benefit of all people. Vincent van der Merwe of the EWT said: “The two males were born in July 2010 on Amakhala Private Game Reserve. They will reach reproductive age soon after arriving at Laohu Valley. They were born in a free ranging environment on a 5700ha reserve, implying that their movements are constrained only by reserve fencing.”

He added the males, “…were originally part of a litter of 5 (4 males & 1 female). Before the Metapopulation Project was launched in June 2011, 24% of all cheetahs born on small fenced cheetah reserves in South Africa were sold into captivity.”  Stuart Bray of Conservation Finance International and co-founder of Save China’s Tigers, said:  “I would like to personally thank the EWT for their assistance in this reintroduction.  Without the EWT, this would not have been possible.  This is truly a historic day for the Free State and a milestone in the effort to restore Laohu Valley Reserve to its natural state.”

Cheetahs experienced a genetic-bottleneck some 10,000 years ago when only a handful remained

Scientists Praise China’s Commitment to Reintroduce Tigers to the Wild

In March 2014, at a meeting of an international team of wildlife scientists at Laohu Valley Reserve, participants praised China’s commitment to reintroduce tigers into the wild. The meetings signalled continued cooperation and new momentum in the effort to reintroduce the world’s rarest tiger, the South China tiger, back into the wild in China.

The scientists and representatives of the UK charity, Save China’s Tigers, hosted a delegation from the Chinese State Forestry Administration. The meetings were part of an effort to evaluate the progress of the South China Tiger Project and discuss next steps. Project Director, Mr. Lu Jun, noted that “not only are these South China tigers in excellent health, but they have been rewilded successfully and are ready to return to the wild in China.”

Save China’s Tigers and the Chinese government delegation also confirmed their commitment to the second phase of the Project – the reintroduction of rewilded South China tigers into large protected wild areas in China.  Mr. Lu Jun noted, “We have together already made great progress in rewilding and will continue to work together to restore habitat for the tigers in China.”

The group also reviewed the groundbreaking research being conducted by Dr. Maria Fabregas on the rewilding of the tigers at Laohu Valley Reserve. Save China’s Tigers and State Forestry Administration representatives will be meeting with provincial authorities in the near future and these meetings will lay the groundwork for the development of large fenced reserves to return tigers.  Dr. Gary Koehler said, “It is truly gratifying to see the success of this project and the support of the Chinese government to ensure that these tigers are returned to the wild in China.”

The cubs were born unobserved in conditions that replicate the free-ranging wildlife reserves in China into which they will later be reintroduced. This brings to 18 the number of South China tigers at Laohu Valley Reserve, or nearly 20% of the world population of this endangered subspecies that is considered the root ancestor of all tigers.

The one male and two female South China tiger cubs appear rambunctious, healthy and strong, and have been carefully assessed by a veterinarian and biologists. Project scientist, Dr. María Fàbregas said, “The low mortality rate for cubs born at Laohu Valley Reserve is most likely linked to the natural conditions where they are delivered and raised. This is definitely evidence of the success of the Project as a captive breeding program, and has been a significant contributor to the increased numbers of this subspecies.”

Triplets Born!

 PHILIPPOLIS, South Africa, June 12, 2014

Mr. Stuart Bray, Chairman of Save China’s Tigers, has announced that three South China tiger cubs have been born at Laohu Valley Reserve, Free State, South Africa. The mother, zoo-born tigress ‘Madonna’, was transported from China to South Africa in 2004 and then ‘rewilded’ on the South China Tiger Project’s 300 km2 reserve. The father was TigerWoods.

Recent helicopter portrait by SCT advisor Petri Viljoen, show the two radio-collared cheetahs looking healthy, alert and checking out the noisy big bird.



Scientific Workshops

In December 2013, Laohu Valley Reserve hosted a scientific delegation from the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks and observed the rewilding program and considered its application in Malaysia.

LONDON, United Kingdom, October 27, 2014

Sitting in the Family Division of the English High Court, Mr Justice Coleridge today handed down his judgment on a preliminary issue in the case of Quan v Bray, The Chinese Tigers South African Trust ("CTSAT"), Save China's Tigers (an English charity founded by Ms Quan and Mr Bray in 2000 and CTSAT's sole beneficiary), and others. Mr Justice Coleridge found against Ms Quan, ruling that CTSAT's sole purpose is to advance the cause of the Chinese tigers (the "Chinese Tiger Project") and not to provide financial benefit and support for the husband (Mr Bray) and/or the wife (Ms Quan) personally. Accordingly, the husband and wife have no rights to the assets of CTSAT. He also ruled that there had been no impropriety by the husband or wife from a UK charitable perspective, rejecting various claims Ms Quan had made before the Court about the misuse of charity assets.

Hearing of this issue began in December 2013 and, following a lengthy adjournment, concluded in July. In this highly unusual divorce case, the wife had claimed that CTSAT, the operator of the Chinese Tiger Project on behalf of Save China's Tigers, was established not only to advance the cause of the Chinese tiger but also to provide financial benefit and support for the husband and wife personally.  The wife also alleged that charity funds had been diverted and used to support a lavish lifestyle for the couple, to the detriment of tiger conservation.  Ms Quan's allegations were widely reported in the press in December 2013.

Today's judgment unequivocally rejects her case with Mr Justice Coleridge commenting that a number of her allegations had been fabricated in order to advance her position.

The judgment represents the culmination of 25 days of court time (including reading days).  Mr Justice Coleridge came to his decision after examination of over 30 files of documents, taking into consideration witness examination and arguments put forward by experienced Queen's Counsel.  The Judge wrote:

"CTSAT was always, and is, only for the Chinese tigers."

"I should say finally, and for the avoidance of any doubt, that during this exhaustive examination of the actions of CTSAT and SCT UK since their creation I have come across no behaviour or actions by either the husband or the wife which in any way cause me concern that they might be improper from a UK charitable perspective. There is no doubt about the benefit to the public in the Chinese Tiger project succeeding."

His conclusion was supported by expert evidence prepared by Mr Mason of leading accounting firm BDO.  In respect of Mr Mason's evidence, the Judgment states:

"He carried out a very comprehensive (and very expensive) quasi audit of CTSAT to deal with the allegations made by the wife that it had been a source of funds for the parties' private expenditure.  He was unable to conclude that any of the expenses had been used to fund the husband or the wife."

and "Mr Mason found nothing untoward".

Speaking on behalf of Save China's Tigers charity, Mr David K Thomas said, "We are very pleased with Mr Justice Coleridge's ruling and that the charity's assets are safe from attack. The untrue allegations made by Ms Quan have been damaging to the charity. Naturally, we regret the circumstances in which it became necessary to address these allegations and particularly the fact that our limited resources have been diverted from our conservation work with the Chinese tigers.  Now that the Court has so clearly exonerated both the charity and its officers of any wrongdoing, we will strive to restore the charity's reputation.  We fully intend to put this episode behind us and refocus our efforts on the Chinese Tiger Project. Save China's Tigers remains 100% committed to working with the Chinese government to reintroduce wild South China tigers into suitable protected landscapes in China."



The Chinese Tiger Project has hosted a number of workshops like this 2010 gathering where scientists confirmed the role of rewilding

International wild cat scientists gathered in Oct 2010, at Laohu Valley Reserve to evaluate the progress of the South China Tiger Project and assess its role in conserving the South China tiger in the wild.

The Rewilding workshop included Dr. Gary Koehler, Dr. Peter Crawshaw, Dr. Laurie Marker of Cheetah Conservation Fund, Dr. Jim Sanderson of Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation, Dr. Nobuyuki Yamaguchi of Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences of Qatar University, and Dr. David Smith of Minnesota University, Chinese government scientists and representatives of SCT.

Results of the workshop confirmed the important role of the Chinese Tiger Project in tiger conservation. Dr. David Smith noted: “Having seen the tigers hunting in an open environment at Laohu Valley Reserve, I believe that these rewilded tigers have the skill to hunt in any environment. We need to use an adaptive learning process when tigers are introduced in China so one strategy might be to release two at a time. Often when you do a reintroduction you may have to repeat the action in order to be successful. SCT should not give up even if the first reintroduction is not successful,”

Dr. Peter Crawshaw added. “In addition, SCT has also done a remarkable job in recovering habitat for South African wildlife. The workshop’s conclusion is timely given the continuing decline of wild tiger populations and their habitat. The initiatives undertaken at Laohu Valley Reserve may represent a model for the conservation of other carnivores and their habitats”.

PHILIPPOLIS, South Africa, Nov. 20, 2015

The global population of critically endangered South China tigers has just increased 2 percent!

Stuart Bray, Chairman of Save China’s Tigers, announced today that two South China tiger cubs have been born at Laohu Valley Reserve, Free State, South Africa. The mother, ‘Cathay’ was born in a Chinese zoo and transported to South Africa in 2004 and then ‘rewilded’ on the Chinese Tiger Project’s 300 km2 reserve. The father was King Henry who was born on the reserve in 2008.

The cubs were born unobserved in conditions that replicate the free-ranging wildlife reserves in China into which they will later be reintroduced. This brings to 20 the number of South China tigers at Laohu Valley Reserve, or nearly 20% of the world population of this endangered subspecies that is considered the root ancestor of all tigers.

The cubs appear healthy but the sex is not, as yet, determined and will soon be carefully assessed by our expert team of wildlife managers. The Chinese Tiger Project began in 2002 and continues to work with its partner, the China's State Forestry Administration in the planned establishment of large, protected reserves in China for the return of the tigers.

Two New Beautiful Cubs!

Tigress Cathay moves a cub while another hides in the bushes.

Important Research Paper Published

PHILIPPOLIS, South Africa, Feb 2, 2016

Can captive-born tigers survive in the wild? The answer to this question is critical for future conservation of endangered animals that are extinct in the wild but have surviving populations in zoos and reserves. If these pampered captives cannot survive in the wild, then efforts to re-establish wild populations are fruitless.

A new paper by conservation scientists documents the first empirical evidence that captive-born tigers can successfully hunt free-ranging prey adequately to meet their energy demands – a critical factor of their being able to survive in the wild and validating the use of captive animals to recover wild populations provided other reintroduction criteria are met. Entitled: “Hunting performance of captive-born South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyensis) on free-ranging prey and implications for their reintroduction”, the paper published in Biological Conservation, a leading international science journal, documents the study of the SCT’s South China tigers’ hunting performance and their suitability for reintroduction into the wilds of China.

The paper was authored by a multidisciplinary team of researchers: Maria Fabregas, a wildlife scientist at the University of Pretoria who has conducted post-doctoral research on hunting performance and breeding activity of the South China tiger; Geoffrey Fosgate  a statistician at the University of Pretoria that collaborates with SCT in the analysis an interpretation of complex data; and Gary Koehler, a carnivore specialist that has been advising SCT since the inception of the tiger project and has broad experience in tiger behavior.


First Wild Cheetahs Born In Free State

In Over A Century

Cheetah mom sporting a GPS tracking collar guardedly watches her playful brood and wary of the distant photographer.

PHILIPPOLIS, South Africa, Feb. 21, 2017

Save China's Tigers and Laohu Valley Reserve announced the birth of 3 wild cheetah cubs on the 350 sq. km South Africa reserve. Cheetahs are I.U.C.N red-listed as 'Vulnerable'.

The reserve's three adult cheetahs are the only free-ranging cheetahs in the Free State province, making the three new cubs the first cheetahs born in the wild since their disappearance from the province in well over a century.

Stuart Bray, co-founder of Save China's Tigers, said: "We are delighted about this affirmation of an important part of our mission that includes the decade-long restoration of lands and indigenous flora and fauna of the Laohu Valley Reserve."

In 2013, in a special partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, two male cheetahs were provided to the reserve followed by a female in early 2016. Vincent van der Merwe of the Endangered Wildlife Trust said: "Thank you kindly to the Laohu Valley team for providing the necessary safe space for cheetah conservation efforts".

Laohu Valley Reserve is one of the largest privately owned protected areas in South Africa. While principally focused on the endangered South China tigers prior to re-introduction to protected reserves in China, the project involves the ambitious restoration of the reserve's 33,000 ha of habitat in an effort to restore the environment to its natural state. This has included: removing over 350 km of internal fences, surplus farm buildings, clearing traps and poisons and exotic flora as well as a substantial increase in several ungulate species through selected re-introduction and natural species recovery.

UK Court of Appeal Confirms Chinese Tiger trust “was always, and is, only for the Chinese Tigers”

16 June 2017

The Royal Courts of Justice, London 

In divorce proceedings between Li Quan and Stuart Bray, the UK Court of Appeal has rejected allegations made by Ms Quan that the Save China’s Tigers (“SCT”) and Chinese Tigers South African Trust (“CTSAT”) charities had supported her lifestyle.  Ms Quan sensationally claimed in the High Court that she and her estranged husband had been using the assets of the charities (which the couple helped found) for non-charitable, personal benefit, including expensive holidays.  After a 25-day trial in the High Court, Sir Paul Coleridge found that Ms Quan had fabricated these stories out of revenge.  However, Ms Quan was subsequently granted permission to appeal the judgment of Sir Paul Coleridge.  In a major set-back for Ms Quan’s attempt to take the assets of the charities for herself, the appeal was unanimously dismissed today by Lady and Lord Justices King, Richards, and Moylan.

SCT is a UK-based charity whose principal object is, “The conservation and protection for the public benefit of tigers and other endangered species of big cat in China” and is the sole beneficiary of CTSAT.  The charities have supported the operation of a large rewilding project in South Africa and China for the last 15 years.

Lady Justice King noted that Sir Paul Coleridge made it “abundantly clear” that the credibility of the husband and wife was critical to the outcome of the case, and later noted that:

“The Judge, having observed her in the witness box over the course of three days, formed a very poor view of the wife”, and “the wife had been beside herself with grief and anger at the way that she had been, as she saw it, unjustifiably removed from SCT UK.  In support of this conclusion he referred to a number of angry and intemperate emails sent by the wife.”

Lady Justice King noted that Sir Paul Coleridge found that: “the wife’s evidence was ‘wildly inaccurate’ in places particularly in relation to their standard of living”, and concluded: “I am driven to find, overall, that she is an unreliable witness upon whom the court cannot rely.”  Sir Paul Coleridge also noted: “The wife is a very intelligent person but she has become blinded by her desire for revenge and this has led her to fabricate where she thinks it will assist her case.”

Lady Justice King continued:

“The Judge, in contrast, regarded the husband’s evidence as: ‘at every stage clear, detailed and consistent’. The Judge regarded the husband’s grasp of the history of the case and knowledge of the documents as being ‘extraordinary and encyclopaedic’, and ‘He was in the witness box for four days, three of which consisted of rigorous and searching cross examination by Mr Todd QC. It could not have been more thorough. Over and over again the husband’s knowledge of the detail of the transactions leading to the establishment of CTSAT and other structures supporting the Tiger Project was tested and found to be sound. His evidence was at every stage clear, detailed and consistent … He took great pains over the answers and made minor corrections as appropriate. He also agreed with the wife wherever possible.

His ultimate finding in relation to the husband was: ‘at the end of the day his passion for the Tiger Project was as evident as it was the wife and the longer he gave evidence the more convinced I became that he was telling the truth and doing his best to assist the court in arriving at the right answer.  In contrast with the wife’s evidence, I found his evidence bore all conventional hallmarks of honesty and accuracy.’ ”

Miss Hughes, representing the Attorney-General’s Office (a required respondent at the appeal), submitted that for the 10 years after the Chinese Tiger Project was formalised through the Framework Agreement with the Chinese government, the parties worked tirelessly on the project.  As Miss Hughes vividly put it: “The Tiger Project consumed their lives and ultimately it consumed their marriage.”  She reminded the court there can be no denying the genuineness of the project, there are 22 South China Tigers in South Africa awaiting relocation to China once agreement can be reached as to the terms.

Lady Justice King noted that Mr Todd [Ms Quan’s legal counsel] wisely refrained from relying on:

the wife’s wholly unsubstantiated and increasingly wild allegations to the effect that the husband was not interested in the Chinese Tiger Project and that his whole investment was an elaborate tax evasion scheme”

In her conclusions, Lady Justice King said:

“The transaction challenged [the establishment of CTSAT] was embedded in a formal document and acted upon in compliance with the same for over a decade; the Judge was entitled to conclude, having heard the wife’s extensive oral evidence and taken into account the mass of other evidence, that the wife’s allegations were a late invention and he was entitled further to find that he was unable to rely upon her oral evidence when it came to deciding where the truth lay about the underlying and continuing purpose of CTSAT.”

The Judge concluded:

“In my judgment the wife’s appeal against the Judge’s finding that the sole and continuing purpose of the trust was, and is, for the benefit of the Chinese Tiger Project must fail.”

David Thomas, Save China’s Tigers co-founder and representative in the appeal said:

“I am satisfied that SCT has again been vindicated by the courts and the Charities’ assets preserved for the project.”  

Brad Nilson, Managing Director of Save China’s Tigers said:

“For many years, the charity has been under a sustained and vexatious attack based on fabricated allegations. Once again, the courts have dismissed these inventions and found in our favour based on the overwhelming evidence.  We continue to look to the future and are making progress towards our goal of re-introducing the Chinese Tiger back to the wild in China.”

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PDF download of Judgment here.