Last week Murray passed me a photo & a press sheet from a save the tiger campaign Vivienne was involved with 15 years ago with the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). He thought that I might do an update on the tiger situation to see if the campaign had achieved anything.
At the time there were a reported 5000 wild tigers left worldwide & the t-shirts provided by the designers were to pay for the EIA to continue with their work (see press sheet).
A quick look on the internet & I could see that the current estimate for wild tigers is now 3200 (adult breeding ones).
I decided to e-mail the EIA & a few days later they arranged for me to speak to Debbie on the phone.
Debbie started off by explaining to me that the drop in tiger numbers was not only to do with tiger deaths in the last 15 years. Previously figures for tiger numbers had been conducted by counting the different footprints on the ground (the pug mark method). The rangers said that they could distinguish individual animals.
In 2005 however a more scientific method was introduced. Automatically activated cameras are left on the paths tigers use & the animals are radio collared where possible. This has resulted in overall tiger numbers being downsized.
Fifteen years ago wild tigers had still been indigenous in the countries, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, East Russia, India & Nepal, but now the only wild populations are in East Russia, Nepal & India. Tigers in the other countries are now deemed extinct, i.e. chances of finding each other, mating & thriving are next to zero (although they are still farmed in these countries). At the moment China has about 50 individuals because they travel across the borders from Nepal & India.
The biggest threats to tigers are still from their poaching for animal parts used in traditional Asian medicines & from their loss of habitat due to deforestation, ( people who believe that they can take on another’s power just through blindly consuming them are completely misguided…) but the EIA also found out that there was another problem, quite widespread, from Tibetan people who it seems would wear tiger skin pelts as status symbols. The 14th Dalai Lama made an appeal in 2006 & since then there has been a change of attitude regarding this.
Overall the countries where tiger preservation is doing the best are the countries that respect the tiger being wild. India is the strongest of these with a stabilising & possibly slowly recovering population of 2000 (there were only about 30 less individuals in 1973, so it’s not a big increase!). Nepal was doing a good job fighting poaching until the recent earthquake disrupted the whole country & there is also still a problem here with the illegal trafficking through Nepal of tiger pelts from India to China, something the EIA are currently working on.
Lastly & ironically, the latest threat to tigers has been the recent public attention given to the plight of the elephant & the rhinoceros, also on the endangered list, but serving to distract attention from the tiger.
To counter this, the EIA wish to launch another publicity campaign for the tiger & hopefully we can be involved again.