Poachers are killing these wild cats to get their bones, teeth, claws and skin, which can be sold for thousands of dollars in the illegal wildlife market.
In the first six months of 2013 more than 50 tigers in India were already dead. And it seems that most of them died in mysterious circumstances or because of a poacher’s bullet. While conservationists and tiger lovers fight every day to save tigers, the predators are living the life of soldiers who are being bombarded with bullets from all sides.
To survive the tiger has to dodge every one of these bullets.
Demand for tiger parts is the biggest threat to the animal's survival. Poachers are killing these wild cats to get their bones, teeth, claws and skin, which can be sold for thousands of dollars in the illegal wildlife market. Tiger parts are mostly used for traditional Chinese medicine and are said to be effective for a variety of ailments. According to the wildlife trade network, TRAFFIC, in the past 10 years, over 1,000 tigers were killed to meet consumer demand in Asia.
But medicines based on tiger parts are not the only reason for the mass massacre. Tiger parts are also being sold as souvenirs with the big demand among tourists for tiger skin and claws. Skins are usually bought for home décor or taxidermy by elite business class people.
A single skin can cost $20,000 or more if the tail is intact. According to an undercover survey, skins are also being used for non-financial bribery within China.
Another exotic use of tiger bones is the wine prepared from them. Sale of this wine is actually legal in many SE Asian countries. Needless to say, to quench the thirst of tiger wine connoisseurs, hundreds of wild tigers are losing their lives.
There was a time when tiger territory stretched from eastern Turkey to the Russian Far East, extending northward to Siberia and southward into Bali. In a relatively short period of time, humans have caused tigers to disappear from 93 per cent of their former habitat and destroyed most of their native forests.
Today they live in small islands of forest surrounded by a vast sea of humanity. With less space to live in, they automatically have less prey to feed on, less water and a smaller chance of survival.
Additionally, because we rely on the same forest sources as the tiger and because these sources are already diminishing, the conflict between man and the beast is increasing. With no wild ungulates to prey on, a hungry tiger is left with little choice but to hunt livestock belonging to farmers and eventually is killed by an angry mob. Out of anger or fear, ultimately the loser is the tiger.
Because tigers are now restricted to small pockets, their genetic diversity too has been affected. With a limited number of breeding partners, the future generations are emerging weaker, more vulnerable to disease and again weakening the clan of the once stellar tigers.
As the world becomes warmer, the rising temperature is causing many natural ecosystems to change. The greatest example is the Sunderbans forest that maybe totally submerged as the oceans rise, drowning tigers as well. Climate change makes tigers and other species more prone to diseases that were not earlier known, so tigers are also at risk of becoming extinct due to a mass epidemic.
Saving the King
The tiger’s enemies are intent on killing every last one of the remaining tigers in the world. It is therefore not the animal but the animal’s friends who have to show their mettle now. From students to teachers, farmers to industrialists, homemakers to policy makers, the tiger needs a conservationist in each one of us. By saying no to products made with tiger parts, playing a more pro-active role in creating safe habitats for the animal, saving forests from being cut down to make malls, mines and industries, and keeping a watch for men with ulterior motives, anyone can act as a shield to keep tigers out of harm’s way. It is only when the nation as a whole begins to care for the tiger that the national animal can be truly saved.