I put off reading the December 2011 issue of National Geographic until just the other day, even though it had a story on saving wild tigers. I knew it would be upsetting. That said, it is worth a read, with superb pictures, and a little bit of hope. There is also an excellent map depicting tiger strongholds in Asia.
Author Caroline Alexander writes about how, despite international conservation efforts, tigers in the wild face the “black abyss of annihilation”. In particular, she says:
Less acknowledged are botched conservation strategies that for decades have failed the tiger. The tiger population, dispersed among Asia’s 13 tiger countries, is estimated at fewer than 4,000 animals, though many conservationists believe there are hundreds less than that. To put this number in perspective: Global alarm for the species was first sounded in 1969, and early in the ’80s it was estimated that some 8,000 tigers remained in the wild. So decades of vociferously expressed concern for tigers―not to mention millions of dollars donated by well-meaning individuals―has achieved the demise of perhaps half of the already imperiled population.
It is thought that tigers occupy roughly 7 percent of their former range. Between human encroachment, habitat destruction, poverty, and poaching, it’s a wonder there are any left in the wild at all. Tigers are one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, and it is beyond me how anyone could kill one, especially just for a few “tiger parts”. Same with sharks and their fins. Senseless killings.
I posted earlier this year on India’s tiger protection force and I am currently doing some outreach to folks to find out what’s taking place on the ground in India’s tiger territories. I’ll report back what I find.
And recently, I came across a blog post by the International Fund for Animal Welfare that mentioned that the organization has published two Chinese language books for young readers on elephant and tiger conservation.
The tiger story is called Run Tiger Run – The Story of a Tiger. It is told from the point of view of a young Bengal tiger who shares his story of growing up on the Indian subcontinent and the challenges and adversities he has had to face.
The books, reportedly endorsed by many popular Chinese celebrities, “aim to motivate Chinese readers to reject products using elephant ivory and tiger bone, to have concern for the welfare of wildlife and the desire to protect them in the wild.”
There are just 50 wild tigers in all of China.
In other tiger related news, India’s Economic Times reported that India’s forests are in serious decline, both in numbers and in health. The paper found that the Forest Survey of India had flawed methodologies and definitions. “It’s an expansive definition, says Harini Nagendra, a researcher studying how forests in India are changing. Under it, tea and coffee plantations, orchards, parks and timber plantations, among others, qualify as forests.” Obviously wildlife, especially tigers, need native forests for survival, not urban forests.
And a bit of good news, India’s Green Tribunal suspended environmental approval for the Posco South Korean steel company project in the state of Orissa. The long-delayed project has faced much opposition from environmentalists and forest peoples. The tribunal ruled that the project had been given approval without fully taking into account it effect on its surroundings. I honestly don’t know what effect it might have on tigers in Orissa, given that there are only approximately 32 tigers in the state. But given the impact of extractive industries on communities and the environment, surely it wouldn’t be a good thing for tigers or Orissa.