International Tiger Day: 29 July


Tigers are among the most magnificent animals in the world. However, they are also vulnerable to extinction. A hundred years ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the wild; but today, there are as few as 3,200. Despite 20 years of international conservation efforts, the future for tigers remains more threatened than ever before; on the endangered species list, all sub-species of tigers are considered critically endangered species.

Of the eight original subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 60 years, an average of one every 20 years; the Bali tiger became extinct in the 1930s. The Caspian tiger was forced into extinction in the 1970s and the Javan tiger followed in the 1980s. The total of all the wild populations of the five remaining subspecies—Bengal tigers, IndoChinese tigers, Siberian tigers, South China tigers, and Sumatran tigers—is an estimated 3,000−3,600 tigers. At this rate, all tigers living in the wild could be extinct in five years!!

International Tiger Day was founded at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, because at that moment wild tigers were too close to extinction. It is held annually on 29 July to draw worldwide attention to the reservation of tigers. The goal of Tiger Day is to promote the protection and expansion of the wild tigers’ habitats and to gain support through awareness for tiger conservation, and many organizations are still helping to raise funds to reach this goal.

The main reasons tigers are endangered—in most cases, critically endangered—are illegal hunting for their pelts, meat and body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as habitat loss resulting from logging and other forms of forest destruction. Tigers lost 93% of their natural habitat due to the expansion of cities and agriculture by humans. Extensive habitat loss and fragmentation have forced tigers to live in small, isolated pockets of remaining habitat, making it harder for tigers to reproduce.

These small islands of habitat also make tigers more vulnerable to poaching. Climate change is also playing a major role in tigers’ disappearance; one of the world’s largest tiger populations is found in the Sundarbans—a large mangrove forest area shared by India and Bangladesh on the northern coast of the Indian Ocean. This area harbors Bengal tigers and protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage. However, rising sea levels due to climate change threaten to wipe out these forests and the last remaining habitat of this tiger population.

According to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) study, without mitigation efforts, projected sea level rise—nearly 30.48 cm by 2070—could destroy nearly the entire Sundarbans tiger habitat! Through protection of existing tiger habitats and reforestation of degraded ones, we can help buffer the poorest communities in Asia against the impacts of river siltation and flooding, while providing global benefits and minimizing the effects of climate change.




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