Global Tiger Day
This Sunday, July 29th, marked the worldwide celebration of Global Tiger Day. The celebration was preceded by the 62nd CITES meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland nearly a week before. 175 countries met to discuss commitments against wildlife crime and trade issues focusing on three wildlife species: rhinos, elephants, and tigers.
The situation of tigers in the wild is precarious at best. WWF reports that in the last 100 years, 93% of historic range of wild tigers has been lost. Where tigers roamed the majority of Asia only in the last century, their habitats and range has been reduced to just 7% of its original size. Today tigers only have 13 range states: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia (Sumatra), Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and perhaps North Korea. Different subspecies dwell in a variety of habitats ranging from tropical rainforests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, and savannahs. Tiger habitat loss has been attributed to increasing development, agriculture, and clearing of forests.
Wild tiger populations have also been reduced by 97%, also in the last century. Along with habitat loss, poaching and retributive killing due to human-tiger conflicts remain major threats to tigers. An endangered population of estimated 3,200 tigers is left in the wild, only occurring in scattered and fragmented populations. Even these are targeted by illegal hunting and poaching fuelled by demand for tiger parts. Tiger bones are a prized ingredient for tiger medicine and tiger wine. Tiger pelts also remain popular among the affluent as status symbols. Each tiger killed by poaching represents a significant loss considering the low volume of wild tiger populations left today.
Efforts and initiatives have been made to save tigers from extinction. Global Tiger Initiative is an alliance of international agencies, governments, the private sector and civil society launched in 2008 with the goal of rescuing tigers from extinction. GTI announced it would distribute information and multimedia displays at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington in celebration of Global Tiger Day.
WWF launched Tigers Alive Initiative with the aim of doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022. More than 30 captive-bred deer were released in Wangqing Nature Reserve, Northeast China on Sunday in an effort to repopulate tiger prey in the area. Wild Amur tigers have been reduced from 200 to 20 inNortheast China in the past 50 years by illegal hunting and habitat loss. Large ungulate animals in the area were also found to be too low to support the recovery of the population. The release is hoped to increase the stock of tiger prey in the area and to support the survival of at least one female Amur tiger in the reserve.
Phys.org reports of 40 arrests made by Interpol as a result of Operation Prey under Project Predator, an initiative to help save tigers from extinction. Tiger skins and body parts were seized in the operation conducted across China, Nepal, and Bhutan. Project Predator covers all 13 tiger range countries in Asia.
Special community events and public service announcements were also made in Bhutan and Nepal in celebration of Global Tiger Day.
Tigers are majestic, beautiful animals that are seen as a symbol of strength and nobility. It is hoped that they will continue to be an inspiration to many more Global Tiger Days in the future.
Photo Credit: All Rights Reserved by The Environmental Blog via Flickr.
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