Tiger population has risen, but so have tiger traps

NEW DELHI (Asia News Network) – The World Wildlife Fund is urging tiger-range governments, most of which are in Asia, to step up efforts to prevent poaching and snaring.

First, the good news. The tiger population is on the rise after over a century of decline across the world. The bad news – poaching-related tiger deaths is at an all-time high in India, which is home to more than half of the world’s tigers.

Of the 3,890 tigers remaining, 2,226 live in India and are vulnerable to extinction.

A recent report released by World Wildlife Fund or WWF ahead of the World Tiger Day urged tiger-range governments, most of which are in Asia, to step up efforts to prevent poaching and snaring of widlife.

“Snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale,” Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF Tigers Alive, said in a statement to mark Global Tiger Day on July 29.

The tiger is India’s national animal and is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act and Appendix I of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

According to the 2014 census, there are approximately 2,226 tigers in India, which is over 60 per cent of the total wild tiger population of the world. There are 49 tiger reserves in India, and the 10 most visited tiger reserves get an average of 150,000-200,000 visitors a year.

There are also around 300 tigers in Indian zoos and these captive facilities are extensively visited by tourists. Most humans misbehave with them – poking them, throwing stones at them or entering their enclosures for fun, to click slick selfies. Tiger temples in Thailand are a huge tourist attraction, many guilty of promoting cruelty, according to World Animal Protection (WAP), a global initiative to protect animals on the streets and in the wild.

The organisation launched an initiative to expose the cruelty behind tiger selfies last year, specifically asking Indian tourists, to not support the cruel tiger tourism industry in Thailand.

With over a million Indian tourists visiting Thailand every year, WAP’s concern seems justified. It believes that Indians can make a significant difference to the welfare of tigers if they boycott wildlife entertainment venues and thereby help prevent cruelty.

The wildlife entertainment industry is expanding fast. It has registered a growth of 33 per cent with three times more tigers in captivity compared to the last five years. The growing numbers are indicative of speed-breeding of captive tigers without any conservation benefits and also evidence that more tigers are born into suffering.

Globally, we’ve lost 95 per cent of wild tigers since the beginning of the 20th Century.

“There are only around 3,900 tigers remaining in the wild. They’ve been killed and their habitats destroyed. Tigers used to roam across most of Asia, but now they’re restricted to just seven per cent of their original range, in isolated forests and grasslands across 13 countries,” points out another website dedicted to protecting tigers.

In 2010, tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022.

Therein lies hope.