I’ve always been enamoured with animals and wildlife, but my recent trip to Africa seeing and experiencing many species at close range has heightened my awe, and made me more aware of their plight and the dangers so many of them face in our world with people and animals grappling for space.
One animal particularly under threat is the tiger, the world’s biggest cat, and what better day to mention it than today – International Tiger Day.
Around 100 years ago, there may have been over 100,000 of these magnificent creatures roaming the earth, but now – according to World Wildlife Fund there are less than 4,000 tigers left in the world. That’s around a 95% reduction in numbers! This is due mainly to loss of habitat and poaching.
According to WWF, a number of governments in countries where tigers roam are on a mission to double the number of tigers in the wild. In 2010, the governments of 13 countries where wild tigers live decided that the business-as-usual approach was not enough, and they needed another plan.
‘They came together and committed to TX2 – the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – to double wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.’
Apart from being magnificent creatures, tigers also play an important role in their ecosystems. As top predators of the food chain, tigers keep populations of prey species in check which keeps the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Balanced ecosystems are not only important for wildlife, but for people too. People rely on forests in a range of ways, either directly for their livelihoods or indirectly for food and other products.
As the effects of climate change escalate, natural forests are becoming increasingly important; providing fresh water, clean air and regulating the climate to limit extreme weather, such as droughts and storms.
Tiger conservation is important because efforts to conserve them also assist the conservation of other species in the same area. By protecting tigers, we are protecting forests – something which ultimately benefits us all.
So, more than just beautiful to look at.
You can donate money to the cause, adopt your own tiger, spread the word and be more aware.
Tourism and travelling to places in Asia where tigers live naturally also has a positive impact on tiger conservation. The revenue generated by tiger tourism circulates in local economies and helps local communities and provides a living for many. In fact, wildlife tourism has turned about the economic fortunes of many areas in Africa as locals are involved in both protecting and monitoring wildlife.
But when you travel in Asia, be aware of places that promote tiger patting and tiger entertainment. Despite the claims of the operators, these animals are usually drugged and usually come from poachers and harsh treatment. Their lives are not easy ones. Surely a quick selfie-snap patting a docile tiger’s head to put on instagram for a few likes is not worth their lifelong misery?
Here’s an article if you want to know more about that growing trend.
I’m looking forward to photographing tigers in the wild one day. I hope they’ll still be there when I get a chance to do so.