Life

Why We Should All Pay Attention To Just How Endangered Tigers Are

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This morning, a conversation raged on Reddit about tigers — those beautiful beasts that we love for their legendary strength, their awesome size, their unparalleled beauty, and because they are basically oversized kittens.

They are, for us, talismanic and inspirational. They show up in our music, our movies, our books, our advertising, and even in our backyards. We use them as our mascots and our children’s stuffed companions. Everywhere you look, it seems, you can find a tiger. Unless, that is, you’re looking for them in the wild.

Not pictured: a tiger. Although if he was in there, you probably still wouldn't see him. That camo really works.
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Not pictured: a tiger.


To put it bluntly: Tigers are on a fast track for extinction. In the last 100 years, we have lost 97 percent of the wild tiger population. Out of nine subspecies, the Amur (formerly known as the “Siberian”), Bengal, Malayan, IndoChinese, Sumatran, and South China or Amoy tiger remain, with the Amoy considered functionally extinct in the wild. We lost the Bali in the ’40s, the Caspian in the ’70s, and the Javan in the ’80s. Let that sink in for a minute. The ’80s.

Meaning it happened during many of our lifetimes. Not that we’re to blame. We were kids, playing video games and drinking Coke. Someone else was in charge, and there were other things on our minds.

Still, how could this happen? To an animal that we, by all accounts, revere?

Here’s how:

Habitat Loss

India and China, tiger strongholds, are seeing their populations grow at alarming rates, and the result is the deforestation of the jungle and forest habitats that the animal needs in order to successfully hide, hunt, and reproduce. The remaining habitat often puts them in close quarters with people, which results in human-tiger conflict.

Habitat Fragmentation

The territory left for tigers isn’t necessarily set up with their convenience in mind. What remains are pockets that make it difficult for them to find each other, resulting in inbreeding, and a lack of important genetic diversity.

Lack of Sufficient Food Supply

If there’s competition for the top predator on the planet, homo sapiens is coming out No. 1, even over the largest land-living obligate carnivore. This is bad news for the an animal that is only successful in one of every 10-20 hunts, and happens to enjoy the same prey — wild pigs and deer — that we do.

Demand for Tiger Parts

Unfortunately, tiger poaching isn’t a new activity, but an increase in demand for tiger parts, particularly bone, in traditional Asian medicine has caused the activity to intensify — this despite the fact that the bones, bile, and penis are useless to everyone using them. Except the tiger. Tigers could really use their bones, bile, and penises.

THE FLICKER OF HOPE: 

Tigers aren’t gone yet. This is not a done deal. Mankind may be responsible for the tiger’s decline, but we also have the creativity, passion, and wherewithal to be its salvation. Communities like Reddit allow us the chance to rally around a cause.

We’re the ones in charge. And we’re paying attention.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Donate to the Tiger Conservation Campaign.
  • Shop smart, by buying products that are deforestation-free. Encourage the companies that make your favorite products to go deforestation-free for their palm-oil needs. This can be as easy as taking a picture.

 

  • Support AZA accredited zoos that use Species Survival Plans to protect the genetic diversity of the tiger. By visiting an AZA accredited facility, you are supporting programs that are directly involved with education, conservation, and research.
  • Check out this film.

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