From Winnie the Pooh to The Tiger who Came to Tea, it’s little wonder that tigers, with their bright orange and striped fur, often feature as energetic characters in cartoons and children’s books.
However, unfortunately these striking creatures are no longer a common sight in the wild. Estimates put the wild tiger population between 3, 000 and 4, 000, a decrease of approximately 100, 000 since the start of the 20th century. Tigers have also lost a massive 93% of their historic range. The past 100 years have seen the tiger populations in Western and Central Asia become extinct, leaving the remaining tiger populations to live in fragmented pockets throughout Northern and Southern Asia. This has led to their classification as an endangered species.
To raise awareness of their plight, International Tiger Day was launched at the 2010 Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. Celebrated annually on 29th July ever since, this day aims to promote the protection of tiger habitats as well making the world conscious of the problems that the species is facing.
Humans pose the most major risk to the tiger population, with hunting and habitat-loss the principal factors behind their endangerment. Heartbreakingly, tigers are hunted for their pelt, meat, and body parts and their habitat is under major threat from logging and other types of deforestation.
However, International Tiger Day was not the only good thing to come from the 2012 Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. 13 countries in which tigers roam wild also agreed on a goal to double the number of tigers on earth by 2022 – the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. They called it Tx2.
To give these majestic creatures a fighting chance of long-term survival, the Asian forests which they call home must be protected. The preservation of just one tiger requires the conservation of around 25, 000 acres of forest. To do this, the Tx2 nations have implemented a “long-term” approach which sees them collaboratively maintain wildlife corridors and increase protection for the species in areas where future tiger populations will be able to live. With the help of WWF, they are also tackling the problem of poaching by training rangers and developing better conservation standards.
So, to mark International Tiger Day, we should all spare a thought for the world’s brightest big cats on 29th July. If we want our future generations to live in a world where a tiger is not just a colourful mascot on the box of their favourite cereal, we need to fight tooth and claw to protect them.