Tigers of the Wild
Tigers are a species threatened with extinction under Appendix I of the CITES treaty. Today, between 3000-4000 tigers roam in the wild, with over 2000 in the Indian sub-continent. This number was around 100,000 at the turn of the 20th Century.
The surviving subspecies of tigers are the Bengal Tiger, Corbett’s Tiger, Malayan Tiger, Siberian, Sumatran and South China Tiger. All of these are classified under endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The river Tigris in Mesopotamia was home to the Caspian Tiger, which is now extinct. Several subspecies have become extinct in the last few centuries.
Fun Fact: Tigers are the national animal of India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and South Korea.
Causes for Decline in Tiger Populations
Animal parts are used as traditional Chinese medicine, some of which is quite strange. Some of these parts include a dog’s penis bone and testicles, deer antlers and penis, cow’s gallstone, rhino horn, bear bile, tiger bones, just to name a few. Rhinos are on the brink of extinction because of the supposed medicinal value of their horn (made of keratin, aka hair). Asiatic Black bears are kept in farms with a permanent hole drilled in the abdomen to extract bile from. The pain is so unbearable that bears have reportedly tried to commit suicide. A deer’s penis is extracted from a living deer so as to ‘conserve its medical properties.’ A tiger’s penis supposedly improves tiger eyes and virility. Let’s not forget these guys also use human parts in traditional medicine as well such as dried human placenta.
During the 19th and 20th century, tiger hunting was a prominent game and recognized sport by the British in colonial India. Many individuals have claimed to have killed over 100 tigers in their lifetime. The hunters would usually trap the tiger in a circle surrounded by elephants and slowly kill the animal. The popularity of tiger skin was another important factor for the decline of tiger populations in the 1960’s. As of 2017, poaching is still an issue in several regions, especially China. Habitat destruction and exploitation has also led to the fall in tiger populations over the past few decades.
Big cats of Instagram
Vice has covered this story on how easy it is to buy illegal wild animals in Kuwait and the Gulf. You can see several videos and pictures on Instagram of tigers, cheetahs, Lions, etc. in cars, mansions or hunting. Any of these cubs would cost around $15,000 in the black market, which is “as easy as getting a cupcake.” The owners would know zilch about wild animals, and these cats would become too big to handle. In some cases, the animal’s instinctive lethal nature can result in fatalities for humans and the animals.
Ligers and Tigons
A liger is a cross between a male lion and female tigress whereas, a tigon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion. The male offspring of hybrids are usually sterile and defeats the whole purpose of conservation of a species. These cats also suffer from several birth defects and die as cubs. Ligers are bigger than the mother and sometimes may kill the tigress during birth. Hunting is also really difficult, if not impossible if a hybrid tiger has to survive in the wild.
Read more in Part 2 about tiger selfies at tiger temple and The rise in Tiger population, a silver lining.