29th of July World National Tiger Day
The largest cats in the world are in severe decline. About 100 years ago, there were approximately 100,000 tigers living in the Asian jungles. In the 21st century, the tiger population numbers are less than 4000, with more tigers held in captivity in America, than roam free in the wild, covering 13 countries. If you find those statistics shameful, then you are not alone. Awareness of the issue is highlighted on Global Tiger Day, celebrated every year on July 29th, highlighting tiger conservation. In the 20th century, tigers became extinct in North-East China, Cambodia, Java and Bali. There are less than 400 in Sumatra. India estimate numbers at 2,200.
What can we do to help tiger conservation, as pressures drive tigers close to extinction? Will it really only be a zoo where we can see a tiger? Is that the legacy we leave our grandchildren? If whales breaching chokes you with emotion, then you can become a wildlife warrior. It doesn’t matter if it is turtles, dolphins, kiwis, orangutans, or tigers – there is an infinite list of vanishing species. Does that make you sad? Have humans really accomplished the worst genocide in the past 100 years? Yes, we have!
You could adopt a tiger
This gives a boost to the work of the WWF. It helps fund local community projects, relays the importance of the tigers who live in close proximity to people and above all try to reduce the poaching.
Avoid tourist activities
that exploit wildlife, such as the monk’s temples in Thailand. As a tourist, you have a choice. Visit wildlife in their natural habitat such as the SepiLok Orangutan Sanctuary in Borneo, where you traverse long boardwalks into the jungle to see the animals in their natural habitat. Try whale watching in Hervey Bay, QLD, Orca whale watching off the coast of Vancouver, Yellow-eye Penguin Sanctuary in the South Island of New Zealand, swim with sharks and feed stingrays on the reef in Tahiti, animal safari’s in Africa. I once saw panda bears in Beijing Zoo and I was mortified. They lived in a concrete-floored cage with concrete trees. You enjoy and appreciate wildlife in a natural way.
Take a stance
and don’t fund the criminal humans trafficking and abusing the wildlife. Having watched the documentary ‘Blackfish’ I would never again visit a Seaworld. But do your own research before you travel. Talk to your children and family members about the issues. Knowledge is awareness of their plight.
Support the true wildlife warriors
such as the Irwin family at Australia Zoo. The zoo animals reflect the love and care given to them by being healthy and alert; not lethargic and drugged for the tourists benefit. Australia Zoo has a tiger conservation project in Sumatra, linked to tiger adoptions.
Another important organisation working tirelessly to save wildlife is the Freeland Foundation, headquartered in Bangkok. They are a global team of law enforcement working with government officers, local communities and students to galvanise action. Freeland has a flagship operation, under the banner of ‘Surviving Together’, which is helping tiger numbers rebound in Thailand. A breeding tiger population has been discovered in East Thailand, just when they thought the population in that area was extinct. Surviving Together brings local rangers and reformed poachers together, as unlikely allies, in innovative training programmes. Addressing the basic reasons for environmental degradation, they fortify protection on the front lines.
The WWF has an ambitious goal, set by the governments of the 13 tiger countries. They aim to double the number of wild tigers by 2020. This is the Tx2 goal. Collecting nearly $350 million each year, the money is spent on investigators and rangers who patrol for poachers. The fund also pays to protect habitats, study movements and they have even set up thousands of wildlife trail cameras to record activity for studying behaviours. All geared towards the Tx2 goal.
Tigers, leopards, lions and jaguars are threatened with poaching, human conflict, loss of habitat, disease and genetic inbreeding. Take away the big cats and the entire jungle eco-system will collapse. Preying on smaller plant-eating animals, they maintain a balance between herbivores and carnivores. Every animal plays its part in the chain of life. Tigers range over 1000 square km, so large tracts of natural forest habitat is required to preserve the species. Demand for tiger bone and body parts have a monumental impact on speeding up the extinction rate. Be aware of the illegal trade in tiger skins, jewellery made from claws and teeth, tiger bone wine and any medicine containing tiger components. Criminal syndicates make huge profits from the illegal trade, so we desperately need to support charities who bring attention to the wildlife topics.
Some tiger facts.
- With its distinctive orange and black stripes; no two tigers have the same stripes – like a human fingerprint. When shaved, their skin has the identical stripe as their fur. This is a great enabler for conservationists recognising each tiger in the wild
- Only polar bears and brown bears are larger than the tiger.
- Average life-span of tigers is just 10-15 years, though like the domestic cat there are instances of tigers living into their 20’s.
- Another average applies to tiger cubs. Females birth 2-4 cubs, every 2 years, but horrifyingly, approximately half of all cubs do not live more than two years.
- Tigers vocalise with roaring, growling and hissing.
- An adult tiger can consume as much as 40 kilos in a day and will swim great distances when on the hunt.
If you haven’t viewed the Netflix true-crime documentary ‘Tiger King’, I recommend you take the time to binge-watch the show. This demonstrates a breeding programme specifically engineered towards providing tiger cubs for tourists to pet. The players involved liken themselves to conservationists when in actual fact they exploit and abuse the animals. Joe Exotic was eventually sentenced to 22 years in prison. It is a fascinating story that will grip you to the end and hopefully open your eyes to behind the scenes machinations. Do they really carry a tiger cub in a suitcase to a Las Vegas casino? Revelations will stun you.
Tourists trusting the romantic tiger conservation ideology at the Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Tiger Temple remain totally unaware of the drugged animals – fed on cat food and boiled chicken because red meat is too expensive. It is a mill of illegal breeding and trafficking. Chained in small cages, outside of visiting hours, the animals are paraded for tourists. Don’t believe what you are being told to believe. We should aim to reduce tourist demand and support ethical conservation management. The choice is yours.