International Tiger Day 2014
Tuesday 29 July 2014 marked a day for raising awareness about the state of tiger populations in the wild. This day became first recognised in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit, Russia when the status of tigers was considered close to extinction.
As recently as one hundred years ago, there were 100,000 tigers across their range throughout Asia. Today, that number looks nearer to 3,000. This dramatic loss is largely attributed to poaching which supplies the illegal trade of tiger skins and bones. The tigers are also losing the forest which provides food, shelter and greater protection than the open farmland and plantations which replace their previous pristine home.
Fewer Sumatran tigers than days in a year.
Tigers are split into groupings known as subspecies, based on physical characteristics, distribution and genetics. Those found on the island of Bali have gone extinct. So too has the island population in Java. In fact three subspecies are confirmed extinct and it is probable that a fourth has too, having not been seen in around 40 years. The subspecies with the lowest population today is the Sumatran tiger numbering around 325. With a population this low, all it would take is for one tiger to be killed each day, caught in a wire snare or trap of poachers and this island tiger will become extinct before the next International Tiger Day, one year from today.
Why would that matter to you?
Today, on International Tiger Day 2014 I observed what people around the world were saying about tigers on Twitter, and what motivates them to share the story of tiger conservation, to raise awareness and to act:
“We owe it to the children of today to ensure that there are tigers for all their tomorrows.”
“…bcos apart from its ecological significance, tiger is one of the most majestic animals to have walked”
“Royal Bengal Tiger is the National Animal of India. SAVE TIGERS”
“if we can’t keep tigers alive, than we may as well give up on the planet!”
“Save them or only stories will left about Tigers”
The volume of individuals and organisations speaking out about tigers was phenomenal; almost difficult to keep up with. In India, where possibly the largest core tiger population exists, #saveourtigersaircel was trending on Twitter, which consisted of a few questions led by mobile network operator, Aircel. Of particular note, Twitter users were invited to express ideas for tackling the issue of decreasing tiger numbers. Responses were largely directed towards community education, increased law enforcement and direct action against poachers. Another common theme of the day was to direct people to a host of donation websites representing national and international organisations and projects.
What can you do?
One of our core objectives as Why Conserve is to showcase realistic actions that can be taken in favour of conservation without shedding any cash:
1. Talk about tigers.
Tell someone what you have read here, or discover a way to relate to a tiger, even if it is just in the fact you will probably share a 21 second average urination time – don’t believe me? Test it, and check with a tiger when you are next lucky enough to see one!
2. Avoid buying products with palm oil in their ingredients.
Cut out as much palm oil from your life as possible. Palm oil is an ingredient found in many foods and home products – look out for it! This oil comes from a type of palm tree which is grown in vast single-crop plantations where rich diverse forests previously stood as the tigers’ home with abundant food, and plants that allowed the cats to hide behind as they stalked their prey. Buying products which contain palm oil means that companies will continue to make it, because it sells. Please put those products back on the shelf and take an alternative.
3. No selfies with a tiger at Tiger Temple.
If you are travelling within any tiger range countries in Asia, you can avoid purchasing any products with tiger parts, including tiger wines, teeth and skins. And please don’t pay for a selfie with a tiger at the temples in Thailand – the operations participate in illegal wildlife trafficking, demonstrate levels of unethical welfare and are considered to be contributing more to exploitation than to conservation. Thank you for your understanding, please share this information with others travelling within Asia, and enjoy the many other spectacular things the country and continent has to offer.
4. Actively support those campaigns which reflect your values.
Petitions have power.
5. Learn more about tigers.
There are many resources available online and offline around the world. There are loads of interesting things to learn about tigers, where they live, and about conservation, so go ahead and discover them: I have provided a few links to get you started below.
Today was an incredible day for talking about tigers, and thank you to all who participated.
Remember, tiger talk isn’t just reserved for International Tiger Day; it is something to think about in the shops, on holiday and with your friends and family any day and anywhere.