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Global: The Tiger's Year And Tiger Farming

Wildlife activists and organizations around the world are determined to make sure that this is really “The year of the Tiger”. They have seized this opportunity to step up their activities and bring global attention to this majestic, yet severely endangered species in the ever diminishing animal kingdom.

According to WWF only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild in Asia – which comprises the largest habitat for these animals – but this number is also at serious risk because of poaching, illegal trafficking and habitat loss.

It seems like the idea to embrace the year to spread awareness is being taken very seriously.

WWF launched the “Year of the Tiger campaign” by releasing “Top Ten Trouble Spots” in the world where the animal is suffering a serious crisis. They cover places like China, India, Siberia, South-east Asia, Bangladesh and even the U.S, where more Tigers are kept in captivity than are left in the wild. According to WWF, an estimated 3000 tigers or more are in captivity in the United States.

At a Tiger Farm, near Pattaya, Thailand. Image by Flickr user Narisa. Used under a Creative Commons License

At a Tiger Farm near Pattaya, Thailand. Image by Flickr user Narisa. Used under a Creative Commons License

This number is truly alarming and it makes you wonder, is this any different from the Tiger Farms in China? The Tiger Farms in China are truly an embarrassment for human beings today and what we are capable of doing to these majestic beasts.

Tigers have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and now even wine. It looks like that trade is not going to stop very easily in the near future because a battle is raging out there about whether legalizing the sale of tiger bones and body parts will help stop poaching of the wild ones.

According to Michael who blogs about cats (mainly):

The only long term answer is to educate and change attitudes and that will require the agreement of the Chinese government. To get their agreement there has to be a financial reward. The loss of the tiger in the wild is a world problem. The tiger belongs to the world and the world must find a way to save this animal.

Sciblogs, a blog from New Zealand which “brings the best science bloggers from the country on one website….”, said China has put forth the argument that farms are a healthy alternative to preventing and reducing poaching of these animals in the wild. Organizations like WWF and CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) have come up against a tough fight with the Giant.

One of the important outcomes of the Kathmandu World Tiger Workshop, was the inability of some NGOs and governments to persuade China to give up tiger farming. The pressure has continued after the meeting. WWF has contributed a youtube video claiming that tiger farms are a ‘ticket to extinction’ (threat to wild tigers). The Chinese stance has been pretty consistent over the last few years.

…..the Chinese no longer believe that demand for tiger parts can be driven low enough to deter poaching. They might have believed this was possible in the mid-1990s, but acceleration in tiger poaching after they introduced their domestic ban has made them skeptics. An important point is that there are other conservationists who are also skeptics. Not everyone believes that the domestic ban has helped.

And China may be winning this argument because many conservationists who are left with no solution are now wondering whether flooding the market with Tiger bones and parts from the farms might really reduce attacks on wild tigers.

Michael, who has been outraged with this argument, countered it with graphic and lurid pictures from Tiger Farms in China:

What you are looking at is the most popular wild animal in the world reduced to trash and meat, chilled flesh and bone, bereft of dignity. The owner of this farm was keeping what was left of the tiger bodies (you can see one has been skinned) until it becomes legal to trade in body parts. And CITES had asked, formally, China to investigate illegal sales of tiger meat at the Guilin farm. What is CITES doing asking China to investigate? This is preposterous. It is like asking the police to investigate an assault perpetrated by an officer on duty. Do we ever get a result from such an investigation? No.

So does legalizing sale of Tiger parts and Tiger Farming reduce the plight of the Tiger? Far from it, it seems. According to WWF a study conducted by the World Bank and the International Tiger Coalition both have debunked that argument saying that :

Given the unpredictability of the market environment along with the fact that there are only 3,500 tigers in the wild, there is no room for experimentation,” said Varma to the ITC. “Commercial trading in tiger parts and its derivatives is not in the interest of wild tiger conservation.”

While many organizations, and individuals who care, are doing all they can to spread the word about the plight of the Tiger, a blogger going by the name of Tatanoo correctly pointed out flaws about the current methods by activists to generate awareness and solicit support for this cause:

Save the Tiger – www.saveourtigers.com, in my honest and unwanted opinion, is a very poorly executed social initiative. I am not sure if this has brought any mileage to Aircel but apart from creating some buzz, the initiative hardly does anything worthwhile. It lacks the soul and resolve that a social initiative requires. It applies armchair activism to an issue where its effect is debatable and the extent of change that can be brought is extremely limited. Let’s do a quick post-mortem of the initiative,”

he says and goes on to list the lame initiatives adopted by them.
Nevertheless, something might be better than nothing. Many of us who celebrate the Lunar New Year may not even have thought about the Tiger apart from just seeing its picture on the calendar, but thanks to the armchair activism and the internet calls for action, we are spurred to awareness.

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