Tigers represent strength, beauty and freedom. They are one of the most beautiful and charismatic animals on planet earth. Tigers have been very popular in ancient mythology and folklore. They are part of our literature, proverbs, stories and movies, performing their strength, force and magnificence. And overall, tigers are one the predators found at the very top of the food chain, playing a vital role in our ecosystem.
At the start of the 20th century there were about 100,000 wild tigers. Nowadays and according to WWF – World Wildlife Fund they are just 3890 tigers left in the wild! . This made Tigers one of the Earth’s fastest endangered species.
The tiger is the largest cat species, recognized by their dark, brown and gray vertical stripes and marvelous body. Those stripe patterns are unique and differ from one tiger to another. Territorial and generally solitary but social animals, Tigers require large areas of habitat to support their food requirements. They can consume up to 88 pounds of meat at one time.
There were once nine subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 80 years; remaining subspecies of tigers are considered today endangered or “critically” endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Recently, it has been predicted all tigers may become extinct in the wild within the next decade.
How this can be?
The major reasons for Tigers population decline include habitat loss, destruction, fragmentation and poaching.
As for other species, Tiger’s habitat has been reduced by human activities including forest destruction for agriculture, growing populations and others that destroy their environment. Through all of Asia, places that were once covered with massive forests have been cleared for farming. As forest space reduces, tigers cannot find the prey they need to survive. Since 1998, tigers have lost 40 percent of their habitat. At present they occupy only about seven percent of their former range and are confined only in South and Southeast Asia, China and the Russian Far East. Just 7% left … how they can find home in this reduced space ? how they can live in peace ? almost impossible !
Individuals are still chasing and killing tigers. Why? A tiger’s fur, forearm, bones, claws, eyes and others trades very expensive on the black market. Just to ilustrate here a couple of examples:
- in China tigers are often killed so that their bones can be used to create a variety of different types of medicine.
- In some Asian countries the “Tiger penis soup sold for more than $300-$400 a dish”.Some people believe that the dish can enhance male virility (a notion that has not been supported by scientific evidence, but yes some people really believe this!).
There are quite a few threats that continue to put the future for the tiger at risk. Humans continue to destroy their habitat, chasing and killing them. The few that still around are looking for a home, but day to day is getting harder for them to get it.
Tigers are our part of our natural heritage, a symbol of the beauty and diversity of this planet. It is also very important to understand the vital role that the tiger plays in the ecosystem.
But today every species of tiger out there is at a high risk of not being around in less than 10 years. Yes less than 10 YEARS. Alarming and hard to believe that we will not see around and that they will become a myth for future generations. That hurts!
Let’s finish this post with William Blake “The Tiger” fragment…
Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
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