Finally tigers are getting some good news and a sliver of hope for the future. Recently India and Thailand have announced growth in their decimated tiger populations. In the last 3-7 years the tigers in these countries have made significant increases in their numbers due to the vigilance of the governments in protecting the habitats and enforcing strict laws on poachers. These actions have proven successful and given tigers a chance at survival.
Several governments around the world have dedicated their efforts to saving our majestic tigers. Tigers are critically endangered in the wild. At the beginning of the 20th century there were close to 100,000 tigers living in the wild in various countries. Today there are between 3,000-3,200 total living in the wild. This number is both astounding and disheartening for the tigers and the people who love them. Just a few short years ago, the tiger population in India was down to horrific numbers, counting only 1,411. Due to the passionate and devoted actions of the Government, officers, forest guards, the community and conservation groups, that number has recently been marked at 2,226, which is a 56% increase for this area! With this increase, India now houses 70% of the world’s wild tiger population. The reasons behind this increase deal directly with the problems that are decimating numbers in the first place.
The biggest threats to wild tiger populations are habitat loss, over-hunting by humans of the tiger’s natural prey, and the savage poaching of these beautiful creatures for the black market trade in tiger pelts, bones, reproductive organs and meat. Tigers' body parts are banned items and selling them is not allowed under international trade agreements, but they do obtain high profits from illegal black market sales. China is the biggest marketplace for these sales. A tiger skin can range from 11,000-21,000 U.S. dollars, and tigers' bones sell for around 1,000 U.S. dollars per 100 grams. Tiger parts are sold as part of the Asian medicine fad, although in truth there is no medical value according to western medical research. These detrimental threats all need to be addressed in order to ensure the survival of wild tigers.
One way these threats have been addressed is through the vigilant efforts of new programs designed to help the tigers. In the past it was hard to track accurate numbers of tigers and of poachers due to outdated methods of tracking such as merely looking at footprints. Today they are using camera traps to record and identify tigers by their unique stripe patterns which are almost as accurate as fingerprints in humans. The Wildlife Conservation Society can use the same fingerprinting software that criminologists use to identify particular tigers. Not only does this allow us to more accurately track the number of wild tigers, but it allows us to track poachers as they are caught on camera. This allows conservationists to keep track of our existing tigers and enforce anti-poaching laws on criminals.
Conservation of these animals requires government dedication and community commitment. The tiger reserve areas need to be free of hunters both aiming for the tigers and their prey animals. Using radio collars is helping to keep humans and tigers from interacting in areas near the reserves. Wild tigers cannot afford for us to become complacent in their recent growth in numbers. Poachers are constantly looking for new ways to hunt these animals, and the numbers are too low to let down our guard. Tigers only comprise 5% of the population numbers they boasted a century ago. Like India’s example, we need to encourage the rest of the world’s governments to take action and protect our tigers.
Written by Megan Frison
Information can be found at:
Chew, Kristina. "Tigers Make a Comeback: Something to Roar About." Care2. Care2.Com, 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Howard, Brian Clark. "India's Tigers May Be Rebounding, in Rare Success for Endangered Species." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 20 Jan. 2015. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
"Indian Tigers Make Successful Comeback | Asia | DW.DE | 29.01.2014." DW.DE. Deutsche Welle, 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Photo courtesy of The Art of Albertine