Tuesday, July 30, 2013

8 Reason Why Tigers are Dying and What You can Do to Save Them

A century ago there were 100,000 tigers roaming the world. Today, there are as few as 3,200 left in the wild. Only 7 percent of historic tiger habitat still contains tigers and of the nine subspecies only six remain after the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers all became extinct in the latter part of the 20th century.

Here are some reasons why tigers are in peril and so close to extinction,

1. Tiger body parts used for traditional medicine

Demand for tiger parts is the biggest threat to survival of tigers. Poachers are killing these wild cats to get their bones, teeth, claws and skin so that they can be sold for thousands of dollars in the illegal wildlife market. Tiger parts are mostly used for traditional Chinese medicine and are said to be effective for a variety of ailments. According to the wildlife trade network, TRAFFIC, in the past 10 years, over 1000 tigers have been killed to meet consumer demand in Asia.

2012 was the Worst Poaching Year for India

What you can do – Science has not been able to prove if tiger part medicines are really effective cure to human ailments. Even if they were, there are many alternatives available. Best way to put end to the poaching is when you stop buying the so called medicines. A living tiger is much more precious to the planet than a pinch of its crushed bone.

2. Tiger skins and other parts sold as souvenirs

As per a 2006 survey one in 10 retail outlets in Sumatra were selling tigers parts like teeth, claws, skin, tail etc. to tourists and locals. These parts were being sold at antique shops, goldsmiths, medicine shops and in some cases general stores. Street vendors too were seen selling tiger parts.

Skins are usually bought for home d├ęcor or taxidermy by elite business class people. A single skin can cost $ 20,000 or more if the tail is intact. According to an undercover survey, skins are also being used for non-financial bribery within China.

What you can do – Don’t buy tiger body parts, even if it means a rug less at home to show off. If you are not buying but know shops that sell parts, inform local authorities.

3. Tiger Wine Sold as Exotic Drink

Why do poachers need to kill so many tigers? In some cases because their bones are steeped in distilled spirits in China to produce an elixir that’s as incomprehensible to Westerners as it is revered by locals in Southeast Asia – tiger bone wine.

At a secret factory in China, a reporter for the South China Morning Post found 600 tiger skeletons soaking in alcohol to produce 200,000 bottles of wine. In a February 2013 report, London-based Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) has uncovered evidence of a legalised domestic trade in captive-bred tiger products. China is allowing the sale of tonic wine made using tiger bones, despite the fact that the practice has been illegal in the country since 1993.

What you can do – The wine may or may not help raise your spirits but the crushed tiger bones will do nothing to extend your health as claimed. Tigers with their bones are best alive in their forests. Stop buying and encouraging others to drink these exotic wines.

4. Loss of Habitat

Tigers are known to survive in a vast variety of habitats. At one time, their territory stretched from eastern Turkey to the Russian Far East, extending northward to Siberia and southward into Bali. In a relatively short period of time, humans have caused tigers to disappear from 93% of their former range and destroyed much of their native forests.

Today they live in small islands of forests surrounded by a vast sea of humanity. With less space to live in, they automatically have less food, less water and less chance of survival.

What you can do – Urban push into forest boundaries is the reason why tigers are losing their forest homes. If you lead a sustainable life where natural resources are not wasted, some way you help the forests from being ravaged entirely for human needs and give a chance for tigers to live longer.

5. Loss of Prey Population

As forests are becoming lesser and lesser, the herbivores that tigers prey on, are reducing. In Sunderbans, the largest mangrove forests of the world and home to Royal Bengal Tigers, this decline in prey numbers has become such a challenge that the forest department has recently decided to start a prey breeding centre, just to keep the wild tigers from starving to death!

It is not just vanishing forests that is leading to vanishing prey like deer, antelope, wild boar etc. It is also humans competing for the same prey when many ungulates are hunted for food and trade.

A Man who made a Forest

What you can do – With just one tiger, we protect around 25,000 acres of forest. These ecosystems supply both nature and people with fresh water, food, and health. When the forest is saved, automatically the prey population increases too. Help local organisations, NGOs in spreading the word about importance of the forest. Save your local forested area from being converted to roads, industries or malls. The small patches saved can make a big difference. Discourage animal hunting too.

6. Man-Animal Conflict

Human habitats close to tiger habitats is increasingly becoming a problem. With diminishing prey population, livestock becomes an easy target for tigers. Also humans regularly venture inside forest for their own need of timber and other forest product leading to unnecessary clashes. Many tigers are killed as a result of this conflict.

What you can do – If you are living near a known tiger habitat, ensure that as a local you respect the privacy of the tiger. Forests are first the tiger’s home and then your source for daily needs. Simple measures like avoiding venturing into the forest during dawn and dusk when tigers are most active, and keeping livestock in protected areas away from tiger’s reach can ensure that tigers and humans can co-exist.

7. Global Warming

As the world becomes warmer, the rising temperature is causing many natural ecosystems to change. Greatest example is the Sunderbans forest that may totally submerge as the oceans rise, drowning the tigers as well. What is also alarming is that climate change makes tigers and other species more prone to diseases that were not earlier known so tigers are at a risk of becoming extinct due to a mass epidemic too.

By 2080 Climate Change may eat away most Plants and Animals

What you can do- Reduce your carbon foot print. Reuse products, recycle them. Use less electricity. Use energy saving products. The more you save natural resources ultimately helps in reducing the overall green house gas emissions and reduces global warming. If you love tigers, start today.
Poor Genes

8. Poor Genes

A recent research that compared genes of ancient tigers with modern ones found that the present day tigers are weaker in terms of their genes than their ancestors. What this shows that tigers are losing their strength, health and are more vulnerable to diseases. They are also not as fearsome enough as earlier to fight various environmental impacts.

Read here: Poor Genes a Threat to Tigers

What you can do - One reason for loss of genetic diversity among tigers is because they are now living in isolated forest patches with no connection or interaction with each other. If the wildlife corridors increase, tigers will automatically roam more and cross breeding will result in greater genetic diversity. Such forest corridors can only be made and saved when you as a citizen are concerned about the tiger’s welfare and object to any development work that neglects these crucial corridors.

Collaborate with local organisations, volunteer with them to know how you can play a more active role in conservation of tigers.

Image via cc/Flickr by Hafiz Issadeen

To read more about endangered species of India, visit are new website

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