‘Happy’ doesn’t quite accurately describe the situation for tigers on July 11th 2011 – Global Tiger Day. More like Grave Tiger Day, judging by this feline’s current status in the wild. The early 21st century housed nine species of an estimated 100,000 tigers across the globe, but those numbers have dwindled down to six species and 3,000 individuals. The largest population of tigers currently resides in India, with 1,700 surviving in 56 different forests.
Tiger snares are still quite active around the few areas in the world where tigers still roam free, such as in Kerinci Seblat National Park Sumatra. This past March, after a five-day ‘snare sweep’, two of Fauna & Flora International’s Tiger Conservation Protection Units found and seized more snares than in the past seven years of surveillance. Poaching in this area has been focused on the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger, with no other species-specific snares to be found. A recently publicized incident involved an adult female Sumatran tiger that was found caught in a hunter’s snare in Desa Jamboo Apha, Tapaktuan, South Aceh in October of 2009. Due to the injury of both front legs, the animal was forced to resort to stalking ‘easier’ prey than normal, such as local villagers’ chickens and goats. Although the Wildlife Crimes Unit in the area tried to save the distraught animal, she died 3 days later from acute infection and dehydration.
There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. According to the Global Tiger Initiative, “The World Bank is collaborating with the Smithsonian Institution to establish the Conservation and Development Network that will be responsible for targeted training programs for senior policy-makers from tiger-range countries, field conservation practitioners, trainers (involved with training field staff) and professional staff of the World Bank and other development institutions”. By providing support for forest managers, police departments, customs officials and wildlife law enforcement in the field, GTI aims to tighten wildlife law enforcement, strengthen capacities for habitat protection and management, reduce demand by expanding consumer and public awareness, safeguarding tiger landscapes by promoting smart ‘green’ infrastructure, creating incentives by building local constituencies for conservation and increasing conservation finance by supporting investments for biodiversity. The World Wildlife Fund is also fighting for the conservation of these majestic big cats. Among other goals, WWF’s Tiger Initiative aims to double the wild tiger population by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.
As Global Tiger Day festivities get underway, organizations are calling on governments and their leaders to honor their commitments from the last November’s Tiger Summit to crack down on poaching. Together we can strive to make next year’s Tiger Day a ‘happier’ day for these treasured creatures, so we can truly have a Happy Tiger Day!