Websailor's Wacky Wildlife World

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A quirky look at wildlife. To be taken with a pinch of
salt, but with more than a grain of truth!

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

But for how much longer? This magnificent beast seems to be a magnet
for every problem humans can invent. It is not enough that they are
suffering habitat loss from encroachment by human habitation but they
are slaughtered for every part of their beautiful body, for money. It
could almost be excusable if it was for food but it is mostly not.
Neither does it benefit the local populations financially.

I find it distasteful that in America, tigers kept as pets actually
outnumber those still in the wild. Beautiful they are, pets they are
NOT! They could never replace those lost in the wild.

Local people in tiger habitat have traditionally regarded tigers with
respect and regard the occasional loss of livestock and even human life
as a normal part of life. I wonder how many of us could cope with
that? In recent years, however, the deaths have increased as tigers
and humans are forced to live in closer proximity.

Tiger populations plummeted once before in the 70s, but huge
conservation efforts turned it around and numbers increased. It is
now happening again. 5,000 - 7,000 tigers are believed to remain but
these numbers are falling fast. There is a burgeoning market in Asia
for big cat skins and bones. The trade has developed from a local
subsistence one to a world wide lucrative business, the poachers
coming from outside, and being paid by organised gangs of drug
traffickers, arms runners and terrorists.

These groups are increasingly seeing the wildlife trade as an easy
option, with less likelihood of being caught and fewer penalties if
they are. Much of the cash produced in this way finds its way into
the coffers of larger criminal organisations. A single tiger skin can
bring £30,000 for an illegal trafficker, so the temptation is clear.
Even tigers in zoos in India are not safe either, some having been

There is also growing interest in tiger skins as clothing in countries
like Tibet. Increasingly the skins, or pieces, are worn to proclaim
the wearer's wealth, as decreasing availability increases the price.
Some 23 shops in Tibet were found to be selling tiger skins.

The tiger is also vulnerable because ground up tiger bone is used in
China in traditional medicines, one full grown tiger yielding 10-12
kilos of bone. The powder is used in elixirs and as cures for
illnesses like rheumatism, arthritis and liver complaints.

Much is being done to counteract these activities with organisations
like WWF working
with medics in Tibet to promote the use of alternatives medicines. In
Thailand photo trapping and monitoring of tigers revealed that
poachers were in the same areas with guns and dogs. Training of
rangers over a comparatively short period resulted in the capture of
some eight poachers. The involvement of local people in reporting
poaching activity also brought benefits. It was also found that
populations of prey species were increasing bringing more good news
for tigers.

Help is being given in India, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet, Thailand,
Russia and Vietnam. No tall order! The aim is to improve and safeguard
tiger habitat, increase awareness of the plight of the tigers and
train rangers and anti-poaching patrols. Provision of tents,
waterproof clothing, sleeping bags and rucksacks gives teams the
ability to track both tigers and poachers for several days. The
addition of equipment such as radios, cameras, vehicles and night
scopes makes for better tracking. Work is also afoot to reduce and
compensate for livestock losses and help local people market their
crafts and food without damaging the forests on which tigers are

Already we have lost three of the eight sub species of tiger. The
Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers are already extinct. It appears that
the South China tiger is also on its way out. The Bengal, Amur,
Sumatran and Indo-Chinese tigers are listed as endangered or
critically endangered. Now, did you know that there were that many
different tigers? I sure didn't but I do now!

As we sit in the comfort of our armchairs watching majestic tigers on
TV it is worth remembering that those fighting the criminal gangs in
all of these countries risk their lives every day. They face heavily
armed gangs with vehicles and automatic weapons, whilst they are often
on foot or on bicycles and perhaps unarmed. Those campaigning and
raising awareness are also targeted by the criminals.

So, in the future are we to remember the tiger only with this verse? I
hope not.

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake

The phone is not far away from our armchairs and TVs and if you are
reading this there is a website not far away waiting for a click! I
mean, we couldn't be expected to go out there and fight the gangs
ourselves could we? But that little piece of plastic could send a
few bob winging its way out there in seconds to help those that are.
While there is still a chance our grandchildren could see these
precious beasts in the flesh, rather than as skin and bone.

Websailor's Wacky Wildlife
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22.02.07 Front Page

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