Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tigers: still threatened but international efforts are at work

It has been some time since I posted any news updates on Tigers. These beautiful cats are emblematic of the problem of poaching and the illegal trade in endangered species. While their habitat has been encroached upon through development or deforestation, illegal hunting seems to be the biggest threat to their existence. And the scarcer they become, the more valuable and tempting they are to the poacher.

Their current numbers across their entire range from Nepal to Malaysia is estimated at only 3,000. By contrast, in the 1950s there were 3,000 in the Malaysian Peninsula alone (a population that has now been reduced to around 500). While a complete tiger skin has value in the black market, of particular value are the male genitalia - freeze-dried and sold as an aphrodisiac in Asian markets.

Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WildAid put a lot of their resources towards working with governments to clamp down on poaching and the illegal trade. Here is a video of a recent rescue in Malaysia of a young tiger caught in a poacher's wire snare. The tiger is being cared for at the local zoo and veterinarians hopefully will be able to save its leg. Read more.

This is an issue that requires action on a governmental and international level for more resources and better enforcement. Recently, over 250 scientists, experts, and government delegates convened in Nepal to discuss the situation and make recommendations. The Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop cited the need for greater protection, support of a tiger resolution with CITES, and a review of development projects that could impact the tiger's habitat.

“These are a good start but the momentum from Kathmandu needs to be carried forward all the way to the Tiger Summit during the Year of the Tiger 2010 and beyond,” said Mike Baltzer, head of WWF’s Tiger Initiative. “The tiger range countries are clearly committed to saving their wild tigers and the world needs to extend unstinting support to this mission because once tigers are gone, they’re gone forever.” Excerpt from a WWF press release.

Most of you are probably not shopping for a tiger skin rug or some frozen tiger penis to spark up your romance. What you can do is support the efforts of groups like World Wildlife Fund or WildAid who are keeping the issue alive with governments and international organizations while also addressing the issue with local citizenry and the populations where the demand for ancient homeopathic medicines still flourish.

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