Celebrate International Tiger Day before it's too late!

Global Tiger Day, often called International Tiger Day, is a celebration to raise awareness for conservation of one of the most charismatic endangered species on the planet. Its held every year on the 29th of July.  

A few facts about tigers

  • They are the largest members of the cat family
  • Tiger numbers have fallen by about 95% in the last century
  • There are as few as 3,200 tigers in the wild.
  • Tigers now survive in 40% less of the area they occupied just a decade ago, according to WWF
  • Tigers are top predators, their role of preying on herbivores prevents overgrazing of land which in turn helps to keep the ecosystem healthy. 

There are 9 subspecies of tigers, 3 of which are extinct. The 6 remaining subspecies are: 

  • Amur (or Siberian) tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)
  • Indian (or Bengal) tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
  • South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)
  • Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)
  • Indo-Chinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
  • Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) 

Of the original nine subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct.

  • Bali tiger (Panthera tigris balica) - EXTINCT
  • Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) - EXTINCT
  • Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) - EXTINCT

How much do YOU know about the plight of tigers?

POACHING 

In every place tigers live, they are endangered or at risk of disappearing from the wild. People throughout the world recognise that tigers are powerful animals. As an ancient Chinese animal symbol, the tiger is an emblem of dignity, ferocity, sternness, courage and, by itself, is Yin energy. Not only this, the tiger has become a symbol of bravery, happiness, and power, but it is also said to drive away evil spirits. People in some parts of the world think that if they had a part of a tiger, they would be powerful too which which has led to poaching.  

Wildlife products are estimated to yield more than $6 billion a year. Poachers hunt tigers to make money for themselves. These magnificent creatures are walking gold and worth a fortune on the black market. 

Tigers are also exploited in tiger farms. Their valuable pelts and bones are smuggled, almost exclusively, to China and used in tiger bone wine - a pricey, traditional Asian medicine. In addition, jewellery is made from tiger claws, teeth and whiskers. 

HABITAT 

There are more tigers in captivity in the USA than are left in the wild where they roam in forests and savannas. 

Tigers have lost an estimated 95% of their historical range. Explosive human population growth demands that more and more land be converted to agriculture, mining, logging and roads. Almost all of Indonesia’s lowland forest has been cleared for rice cultivation and in Southeast Asia, palm oil plantations are replacing the tigers’ natural habitat. 

Of the remaining tigers’ historical range which is still intact today, most is in isolated areas. This results in small pockets of tiger habitat surrounded by human populations. This can result in human/tiger conflicts as the tigers roam to find new habitats and it may also lead to inbreeding in small populations which reduces genetic diversity. 

TOURISM & CAPTIVITY 

Calling all you cool cats and kittens: ‘Tiger King’. 

The film ‘Tiger King’ has highlighted how big cats can be forced into cruel, unnatural living situations in captivity and shown how it is more important than ever to protect all big cats in the wild. 

It's estimated that there are around 5,000 captive tigers and only an estimated six per cent of them are in accredited zoos and facilities. Many tiger owners are not trained to care for or handle tigers. Most are not in captive breeding programmes being run by accredited zoos that can positively benefit the species, focus on recovering wildlife populations or protect and restore their habitat. 

Sadly, tigers are a lucrative business! ‘Tiger Temples’ are popular, especially with Chinese tourists who now make up nearly one third of foreign visitors in Thailand. For $10, tourists can pose with a tiger at Phuket Zoo, in Thailand. Photos are uploaded onto Facebook and Instagram to showcase their unique experience to friends and family.  Most tourists are completely oblivious to the fact that they are contributing to animal abuse. It’s very sad that so many people don’t recognise that it’s unnatural for a tiger to live in a small bare cage, have a chain around its neck and have a tourist sit on its back.

 The real facts about a tiger’s life in a ‘Tiger Temple’: 

  • Tigers are not fed a proper diet as the owners have no knowledge of their welfare needs and simply don’t care as long as they are making money.
  • The poor animals are confined in tiny barren cages for 20 hours a day.
  • Physical abuse - British wildlife charity ‘Care for the Wild’ revealed evidence of tigers being regularly beaten with wooden sticks and clubs, and being forced to sit in direct sunshine for hours.
  • Weak health and physical condition - these captive animals were observed (by Care for the Wild) to demonstrate unusual behaviour traits such as pacing and chewing paws, and had skeletal deformities.
  • Ill treatment of mothers and cubs - cubs are usually taken from their mothers when they are just 7 - 12 weeks old. In the wild they are usually by their mother’s side until the age of two.
  • No Tiger Temple has been recorded to have released tigers back into the wild.
  • Tiger Temples make an estimated $1m+ profit a year, but there is no evidence of any this money being used to support tiger conservation or education.
  • Tigers are often drugged to keep them docile so tourists can engage with the tigers whilst having their photograph taken.

Organisations that work to save tigers

Panthera: Their goal is to increase tiger numbers by at least 50% over a ten year period in key location’s including India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Nepal. Addressing poaching, overhunting , habitat loss & fragmentation, and conflict with local communities. 

Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation:

“Save the Tiger Fund has partnered with Panthera because we recognize the urgency of the current state of tigers in the wild ...” 

Born Free: Working globally for tigers in both the wild and captivity. Born Free provides a co-ordinated programme for conservation initiatives to stop poaching to ensure their survival and raise awareness of the plight of tigers in captivity.   Born Free’s ‘Living with Tigers’ programme unites a network of Indian conservationists in seven tiger reserves in central India to prevent conflict between people and tigers. In Thailand they support a counter-trafficking organisation, improving law enforcement and park monitoring. Their sanctuary in Bannerghatta National Park in southern India provides lifetime care to tigers unsuitable for release into the wild. 

Global Tiger recovery programme: The proposed goal of the 2010 Tiger Summit was to launch a global effort to double tiger numbers in the wild by 2022 (the next year of the tiger) in key conservation areas. 

Based on three key pillars;

  1. To protect tiger species and their prey from the threat of poaching.
  2. Preserve tiger habitats including core habitats, buffer zones and corridors.
  3. Support human populations living in tiger landscapes. 

This is one of the most ambitious conservation programmes for a single species and, although the tigers’ future is still uncertain, there have been some victories. In 2016 it was reported that tiger numbers in the wild were on the rise in  Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia. This is significant progress but much work still needs to be done to continue this trend and ensure the future for tigers. 

People love tigers. If you want to help protect them please take these simple steps: 

  • Be a responsible tourist - report illegal trade.
  • Don’t visit a Tiger Temple.
  • If you want to visit a sanctuary avoid fakes - do your research.
  • Do not buy tiger parts.
  • Spread the word, educate yourself and others.
  • Consider volunteering to help in some way.
  • Support campaigns that aim to return captive tigers to the wild.
  • Donate / Adopt a tiger. 

Guest article by Courtney Wemyss

- July 28, 2020