World Wildlife Fund: Tiger Spotlight

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Are you familiar with the World Wildlife Fund? For 50 years, WWF─the world’s leading conservation organization─has been protecting the future of nature. WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF’s unique approach combines global reach with sound science, taking action at every level from local to worldwide and creating solutions for both people and nature.

One of the great WWF concerns presently is the plight of tigers, which are highly endangered. Just how serious is the problem? Well, a century ago there were 100,000 tigers roaming the forests, swamps, and tundra of Asia. Today, there are as few as 3,200 left in the wild. In fact, only 7% of historic tiger habitat still contains tigers. If things continue at this rate, wild tigers will be extinct in just a few decades!

Sadly, consumer demand for tiger parts poses the largest threat to tiger survival. Tigers are being hunted to extinction by poachers for their skins, bones, teeth and claws, which have been highly valued for their use in traditional Asian medicine for more than 1000 years, as well as numerous folk remedies/products. In 1993 the Chinese government banned the trade and use of tiger parts, but cultural belief in the power of tiger parts remains.

Would you believe that parts from a single tiger can fetch as much as $50,000 on the black market? This makes the poaching of these magnificent creatures very alluring to criminal networks. So, who poses the greatest threat to the existence of this noble cat?

Sadly, it’s a question of multiple culprits, including:

Consumers of tiger products:

A growing, wealthy population, primarily Asian, that buys tiger products for their purported healing powers and as status symbols.

Poachers and Crime Syndicates:

The ruthless and well-organized crime syndicates that fuel the poaching of wild tigers and selling of their parts.

Tiger Farm Operators:

The commercial breeders of captive tigers who raise them for their parts and feed the demand for tiger products.

Governments:

Governments that fail to uphold laws against illegal trafficking of tigers and other species, as well as those that lack the resources/political will to create tiger sanctuaries or provide adequate protection of existing parklands.

Corporations:

Large corporations that are responsible for massive and indiscriminate deforestation of prime tiger habitat.

Consumers Worldwide:

Everyday citizens who unknowingly purchase a wide variety of paper, timber, palm oil and coffee products provided by corporations who refuse to use natural resources sustainably.

As bleak as all this sounds, we can save wild tigers. WWF has set a bold goal: to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, when the next Year of the Tiger is celebrated. A major step is to protect key landscapes where the big cats have the best chance of surviving and increasing over the long-term. Five decades of conservation experience has shown WWF that given enough space, prey and protection, tigers can recover.

By saving tigers, we also preserve the biologically rich, diverse landscapes where they roam—Asia’s last great rain forests, jungles and wild lands—which are home to thousands of other species, people, food and freshwater that local communities need to survive. The call to action is clear. Learn more at http://www.worldwildlife.org/home-full.html

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