What is wrong with us people? Why do we kill tigers? As far as I know tiger skins, claws, bones, blood or trophies do not contribute to a better survival rate of the 'consumer'. The few poachers and dealers in tiger parts, of which the latter belong to organised international wildlife crime syndicates, will improve their status and living conditions. For them their crimes pay off very well I suppose, with what I call blood money. But it does not help mankind to survive in the long run. On the contrary, we will exterminate ourselves, because when tigers go extinct – and they will if we continue like this – we lose a top predator. When we lose the tiger we lose all the plants and animals that live under the tiger’s umbrella, nature's balance will be disturbed. And after we have exterminated the tiger which top predator is next? Will we move on to kill the last remaining lions?
So, why do we let organised international wildlife crime kill tigers? Is it pure ignorance? I expect that is true for the majority of the global population. Therefore, the question should be 'why are we not able to stop this killing and save the tiger from going extinct'? I doubt if this majority is aware of what is really going on out there?
And what is it that is going on, and should make us care? Two examples that made the news lately are illustrative of international wildlife crime. One of them is situated in India, in the State Maharashtra to be exactly. Eight of the 14 Bengal tiger poaching deaths in India this year occurred in Maharashtra, where about 40 tigers live (read more here). That is already one more than in all of 2011. As a result the State's government has declared war on animal poaching by allowing forest guards to shoot hunters on sight in an effort to curb rampant attacks on tigers and other wildlife. I don't know if this is the way to go, but it does indicate local action is underway.
Another example is the situation in Kerinci Seblat National Park in Indonesia. In this park, where 166 Sumatran tigers live, the situation for this beautiful animal has started to deteriorate in recent months. Tiger numbers had been on the rise in this great reserve and poaching threats reduced. But lately, a new surge of tiger poaching and trade has been recognised in Sumatra, including in Kerinci. Poachers mainly use snares to trap animals, which lead to awful and painful wounds. Even tigers that are found and rescued by rangers before the poachers find them will not be able to return to the wild after recovery, because they cannot hunt anymore. And do you now how many tigers die when a tiger is caught in a snare? (read more here)
Fauna & Flora International has launched an urgent appeal to save the Sumatran tiger from extinction, and ask for donations to provide the Kerinci tiger protection patrol units with essential equipment. I support this appeal wholeheartedly, and would like to invite you to do the same (more about the appeal here).
It is heartbreaking what is going on in various conservation areas. Therefore, I applaud all the effort of all who try to rescue poached animals and save endangered animals from extinction. But all the appeals from so many conservation societies/organisations/institutes/private enterprises can be confusing. What to give to whom and why, and for what? Wouldn't it be better to combine efforts as much as possible, including fund raising. Sometimes it looks as if organisations are trying to outcompete each other. I would suggest that all conservation organisations at least show us, the donors, that they work together in a grand programme with transparent objectives. The different objectives can be addressed by those organisation(s) that are most suited for the task (research, hands on conservation, enforcement, ...). In addition I would suggest that IUCN, together with UNEP perhaps, take the lead in this. At the moment I feel I have to sort out myself who is doing what and is the most effective and efficient. I do have the stamina, but I doubt if others do too. It could be worthwhile to show there's good collaboration, in my opinion. For the reassurance of those who donate small and large sums of money.
Nevertheless, I would like to end with my personal appeal: Do not give up on the tiger and donate to 21st Century Tiger or Fauna & Flora International or Panthera or ALTA, these organisations are worth every cent.
(Sources: Fauna & Flora International; 21st Century Tiger; Wildlife Protection Society of India)