Where have all the tigers gone?
by Dr Tracey Phillips – CEO Gondwana Alive
Seatao, Shy Boy, Shadow … these are some of the tigers found at Tiger Canyons in South Africa.
Tiger Canyons is conservationist John Varty’s maverick brainchild.
“John Varty established Tiger Canyons near the town of Philippolis on the Van der Kloof Lake in the Karoo of South Africa as an experiment to create a free-ranging, self-sustaining tiger population outside Asia. From this population, third and fourth generations of tigers can be returned to Asia into parks that meet a set of criteria which give the tigers a chance of surviving in Asia.”
Tiger Canyons is viewed by some as a bad idea but if we look at what has happened to tigers in the past few hundred years and what it may take to save the Tiger from extinction – I wonder?
According to a status report “of the original nine subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 80 years; an average of one every 20 years. It has been predicted all tigers may become extinct in the wild within the next decade. Poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation have reduced the global population of tigers from over 100,000 in the 1900′s, to less than 4,000 in the 1970′s. Today, four of the remaining subspecies of tigers are considered endangered by the IUCN, while two of the subspecies are considered “critically” endangered.
The total number of all the wild populations of the six remaining subspecies of tigers (Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Siberian, South China, and Sumatran) is estimated to be between 3,000 – 3,600 tigers.”
Mark Magnier said in the LA Times that a century ago, India had about 100,000 tigers, and maharajas and British sahibs would dispatch dozens of them in a single hunt. The maharaja of Surguja recorded 1,100 lifetime kills, many from atop an elephant. Today, notorious poachers like kingpin Sansar Chand still seek to kill tigers.
Why you may ask?
Well because every part of the tiger from whisker to tail is traded in illegal wildlife markets – there is a demand for dead tigers!
So, with so few of these of these magnificent big cats and key links in a healthy food chain left, unconventional and debatable Tiger Canyons may be, perhaps extreme times do call for extreme measures – most certainly for innovative, different paths and thinking.
Read more about tigers here and check out Condé Nast Traveler for photos of places to go to view tigers in the wild.
The bigger picture
The story about tigers is sadly a small part of a much bigger story on loss.
According to Dr John Anderson, author and editor of the Biodiversity & Extinction series, when humanity spread out from Africa across the planet, we left a trail of wholesale destruction and extinction in our wake. You can read some of the horrifying statistics of extinction plants, insects, molluscs and more by downloading Dr Anderson’s Biodiversity & Extinction series here.
The consequences of over-exploitation and extinction are far reaching. Let us take fish for example – 75% of all the fish stocks in the world are already either: exploited, over-exploited or recovering. Like tigers, there are those who predict fish resources will run out in the next few decades – an ocean without fish, it is unimaginable and yet Dr Anderson’s description of our recent past suggests to me that it is quite possible.
I remember meeting a fisherman in Paternoster who shared with me that the first thing he did each morning was throw open the window to see if the fish were running – his father did the same before him, and his father too. Sadly most of the fishers in his village have lost their fishing rights – there simply are not enough fish left to go round. So through over-exploitation we have lost not only most of our fish resources but also part of our culture and tradition.
Gondwana Alive’s Appeal
I for one do not want to leave this horrible legacy of tigers and fish and who knows what else to our children. Humans are very creative beings, and if we set our minds to it, I fully believe that we can find a way to restore and heal our natural resources and our planet – it is still the only one we can call home, and on a lighter note, yes Sheree-Ann it is still the only one with chocolate (as far as we know).
Gondwana Alive, is Non-Profit Company dedicated to stemming what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction” of life on Earth – to this end we find, train and support community stewards working to improve life and natural resources. We are an umbrella organization providing a centralized administrative, marketing and financial platform, as well as technical, mentorship and training services to strengthen community-based initiatives.
It may take generations to heal our home, but I believe we can do it and that we have to at least try. If you feel the same way please donate to help me turn Gondwana Alive into a Non-Profit Company that will last generations it will take to heal our planet.