Foresters in mountainous northeast China have observed a rare Manchurian tiger cub at play with its mother, ending debate over whether the highly endangered species was extinct, a published report said Saturday.

The rare tigers were sighted recently by forest workers in the Changbai mountains of Jilin, a province in northeast China bordering North Korea, the state-run China Daily reported.Traces of the endangered animal have been found over the years in Jilin and in the Xiaoxing'an mountains of neighboring Heilongjiang province, and a tiger was reported to have killed a cow in a Jilin village as recently as last spring.

But until the recent sightings, there had been no reliable observations to prove the animals still existed, the report said.

Zoologists have estimated that the number of Manchurian tigers in the wild had dropped to only about 80 in the late 1960s and plummeted to as few as 30 by the early 1980s.