March 12, 2010
Happy Chinese New Year and welcome to the Year of the Tiger. Let’s ensure the year focuses on its survival. In the last Year of the Tiger – 12 years ago, there was an estimated 6000 in the wild. With the loss of their natural habitats, the numbers have halved. There may be 50 to 100 wild tigers left in China, and serious attempts are being made in Russia and China to save the Siberian Tiger.
Can you believe that this Jason Morgan image is a painting! Prints can be ordered online.
South China Tigers are no longer found in the wild, but one organisation is supporting breeding programs of them in South Africa (http://www.savechinastigers.org/). India has seen a 60% decline in numbers over a decade to approximately 1411. There are quite a few reserves in India to see tigers, and in other places as well, such as out of Luang Prabang in Laos, or even the monastery at Kanchanaburi in Thailand (www.tigertemplethailand.com/index.htm) which has become a tiger sanctuary. The Panthera Foundation (http://www.panthera.org/) based in New York is primarily concerned about the 36 big cats, and is most worried about the survival of tigers. The AnimalAsia Foundation (http://www.animalasia.org/) is very active with their main on-going campaigns against bear farming and the eating of cats and dogs. The World Wildlife Foundation (http://www.panda.org/) has a current tiger initiative aimed at doubling the numbers of wild tigers by 2020.
It was fascinating to visit China last year – the year China revealed more of itself to the world than ever before, and demonstrated its political and economic power. I realised that they were much more concerned about the environmental consequences of their rapid economic development than we had been lead to expect. It was reassuring to learn that going against most world-wide trends, panda numbers have actually stabilised.
In 1993 China joined an international ban on the trade of tiger products, but, like with ivory, this helped to push prices so high that it has encouraged poaching and smuggling. I have a feeling it is taboo in China to offer any criticism of traditional medicine, even if it is putting at risk various species. Tiger body parts used include bones, penis, testicles, whiskers, eyeballs, skin, tissue and blood, pelts for decoration and teeth and claws for charms. Thinking of Christian, I was very disturbed by the lion teeth I saw for sale in Siem Reap, Cambodia.