Tigers On The Brink Of Extinction
Tigers on the brink of extinction!
William Blake’s “Tiger, Tiger burning bright, in the forests of the night” may become meaningless rhymes for future generations if the Tiger is not saved! Statistics on tiger populations round the world have taken a nose dive. While conservationists are at their wits end about finding solutions to Tiger conservation issues, the wildlife conservation meet at Hague was vague about how they would address this problem. They were happy to pass dicta on the captive breeding practices in China, but were cagey about how they would stop the Tiger poaching in India. Orthodox conservation plans based on protection too have failed the tiger.
Tiger populations are endangered by poachers who kill them for their fur, skin and bone. Statistics show that Wild Tigers are numbered 60 in China, 400 in Russia and 2500 in China. Count of Tigers bred in captivity in China is around 5000. The numbers of Tigers in captivity in the USA is around 10,000.
The breeding of Tigers in captivity is not palatable to many wild life conservationists and there have been several protests registered by them in various forums. However, Tigers in captivity have a better chance of survival in the current environment than their wild counter parts. Out of the five different species of wild tigers only two survive today. Three have vanished from the face of the earth. Captive Tiger farms may border on the unethical, but it has led to evolution of tiger tracking systems that may be replicated to the advantage of tiger populations across the world. It should be noted in this context that the Chinese have an excellent monitoring system in place and can track every single Tiger that is bred in their farms. The chain to custody from farm to customer is possible. Every Tiger is micro chipped and the blood is taken for DNA sampling and profiling. Sale of tiger products is also tracked as they have an efficient tracking methodology in place for legally sourced products. Sale of poached Tiger products thus becomes risky for the poacher. Similar systems are yet to be duplicated across the globe.
What makes Tiger smuggling attractive? Even death penalty for Tiger smuggling does not seem to deter them! The most attractive feature of tiger part sales is the growing, lucrative black market fostered by age old beliefs and traditions and changing surrounding environments.
Tiger bone is used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating bone diseases. Whether the medication works, is still an unanswered question, yet there are reports of visitors to Chinese Tiger farms begging for Tiger bone for curing numerous ailments. These populations of consumers are the ones that indirectly promote tiger poaching and black market in Tiger body parts. NGO campaigns that condemn this practice and illegal supply of tiger bones do not seem to have impacted the industry. Government bans too do not seem to affect the trade adversely. The trade just goes underground and smugglers have the field day!
Growth of human populations and indiscriminate cutting down of trees and forests are depleting the forest covers that were once the homes of these tigers. This also results in Tiger populations getting fragmented and mating becomes an issue. Inbreeding weakens the species and causes dwindling of tiger populations.
The diminishing forest space also force these animals to seek prey in the surrounding villages. This in turn triggers off panic among the villages leading to indiscriminate killing of these animals to protect life and livestock.
What can we do to help? First we need to understand that the depleting Tiger population is an indication of an imbalance in the ecosystem. You too will be affected by the imbalance in the ecosystem over a period of time. So to save yourself, you need to ensure that ecosystems of the Tiger are not disturbed unduly and indiscriminately. Secondly, once a species is lost, it is almost impossible to replace it. So as a responsible citizen of the world, you need to lend you voice and support to organizations and forums that speak out for wild life conservation. You should discourage poaching of any kind and report them to the right authorities. You could contribute to Tiger foundations and a number of other funds that have taken up Tiger conservation as their goal.