I’ve always been mesmerized by the powerful caged tigers of my childhood zoo visits. Although I would not want to meet one in the wild, worldwide tiger populations have dropped to 3,200, falling by “95 per cent in the past century”. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has placed the tiger at the top of its list of the most endangered species. Appropriately, it also the Chinese year of the tiger.
Panthera tigris are one of the most threatened species on the planet. WWF explains:
Less than a hundred years ago, tigers prowled forests from eastern Turkey and the Caspian region of Western Asia, across the Indian subcontinent and Indochina, north to the Russian Far East, and south to the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra…
Three subspecies – the Bali, Caspian, and Javan tiger – have become extinct in the past century. And a fourth may be on its way… many scientists believe the South China tiger is “functionally extinct”.
Just six subspecies remain, and soon this number will drop to five. Loss of habitat, poaching, and shrinking food supplies are largely to blame for the tiger’s demise, making it a priority species. Diane Walkington, head of species programme for the WWF in Britain, explained in the Telegraph:
Of course, there are thousands of other species on the endangered list. However, there is particular importance in selecting a creature such as the tiger for special attention. To save the tiger, we have to save its habitat – which is also home to many other threatened species. So if we get things right and save the tiger, we will also save many other species at the same time.
Climate change certainly has an impact on tiger habitat. The Telegraph estimates “70 per cent of the Bengal tiger’s remaining habitat in the Sunderbans mangrove forest may be lost within 50 years due to rising sea levels.” The Telegraph India reports about how tiger habitat is recently reducing rapidly, “Tigers occupy less than seven per cent of their original range, which has decreased by 40 per cent over the past 10 years.” For the preservation of tigers to be successful, WWF “aims to work with governments to encourage more responsible forest management and compensation for farmers whose livestock are killed by tigers to avoid them being hunted, ” as well as increase patrols and work with governments to lessen poaching and illegal trade.
Other species topping the WWF most endangered list include: polar bear, pacific walrus, Magellanic penguin, leatherback turtle, bluefin tuna, mountain gorilla, monarch butterfly, Javan rhinoceros, and giant panda. Of the list, I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing the monarch butterfly in the wild. If we can address climate change as part of species preservation, we will not only help tigers, but humans ourselves.
Jennifer lives on 160 acres off-the-grid in a home built with her own two hands (and several more skilled pairs of hands) from forest fire salvaged timber. Her home is powered by a micro-hydro turbine, and she has been a vegetarian for 21 years. She graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in art education and has been teaching art to children for over 16 years. Jennifer is the founder and editor of Eco Child's Play.