Tiger protection advocate Wei Diansheng believes protecting the giant panda has become more of a priority in China than protecting the endangered Siberian tiger.
Captive-bred pandas with cute names have bamboo airlifted to them from other regions. They live in air-conditioned homes and even have professional caretakers, while tigers have starved to death in zoos, said Wei, chief of the Forest Industry Administration in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
In 2010, 11 Siberian tigers died of malnutrition at a zoo in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Meanwhile, a giant panda management office has been established under the administration to protect the species and boost cultural exchanges with other countries.
Efforts to save and protect Siberian tigers can't even compare, said Wei, who used to serve as the head of the science and technology department of the State Forestry Administration, which is in charge of animal protection in China.
The country's estimated 1,500 wild pandas have 13 nature reserves established at various levels in China, but just one reserve has been set up for Siberian tigers. It is located in Hunchun City, northeast China's Jilin Province, said Wei.
Monday marked the 4th Global Tiger Day. Statistics show that there are less than 500 Siberian tigers living the wild, and most of them live in Russia and China.
With little of their habitat included into nature reserves, wild Siberian tigers are often found injured or dead from poaching.
Over the past 20 years, at least seven wild Siberian tigers have been found dead in China, and most of their deaths were related to human activities.
Poachers place traps or wires in forests, posing threats to not only tigers, but also their prey, such as red deer and boar, which has led to a food shortage for the tigers, said Jiang Guangshun, a professor of animal protection at Northeast Forestry University.
Amid the rapid economic development in northeast China, more and more populated villages are popping up in forested areas there, which also has fragmented the habitat of wild tigers, Jiang said.
"A female tiger, for example, roams about 400 square kilometers to get food, but overlogging and human intrusion within the area have affected their preying, as well as mating, among different groups," he said, adding that roads, railways and border fences also hinder Siberian tigers' migration.
In 2000, the Chinese government started a natural forest conservation project that restricts or bans logging in natural forests. The move has greatly helped to improve the habitats of wild animals such as Siberian tigers.
Moreover, to help increase the number of wild Siberian tigers, volunteers are regularly organized to remove poaching traps in forests, and workers with local forestry bureaus release deer and other animals for the tigers to prey upon in winter, when the food shortage problem is most serious for them.
Thanks to these efforts, the number of wild Siberian tigers in China increased from 12 to 16 in 2000 to 18 to 22 in 2010, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
In November 2010, leaders from 13 countries, including China and Russia, committed to backing the Global Tiger Recovery Program, which aims to double the number of tigers living in the wild by 2022. ' Also that year, former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a joint communique, vowing to strengthen efforts to protect wild tigers at the countries' border areas, among other items.
A national nature reserve was later established at the border area in Russia in 2012. It is equipped with facilities such as satellite telecommunications devices and tiger transport vehicles.
Experts have called on the Chinese government to also set up a state-level nature reserve near the area to boost cross-border protection efforts.
Ma Jianzhang, a renowned academic on wild animal protection with the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), said the most effective means of protecting wild tigers is to establish a Siberian tiger protection zone at the eastern part of the Wanda Mountains.
Monitoring results show that five to seven tigers have been spotted in the area, and they are believed to have close connections with the 350 tigers across the mountains in Russian territory, Ma said.
"The region is the ecological corridor for cross-border activities of Siberian tigers, in which hope lies for China to increase the number of the species in the wild," he said.