The tiger is the one of the world’s largest known cat species. Its scientific name is Panthera Tigris, and is known to reach body lengths of nearly four meters (Hunter). The tiger is an apex predator, which means that the tiger belongs to the highest position in the food chain. It is also considered as an endangered species of cats and therefore has received protection from governments all over the world against poaching and killing (Hunter). There are several agencies and organizations that are linked with the welfare and protection of the tiger. These organizations work to increase the number of tigers to rectify ecological imbalances caused by due to human intervention. The tiger species is in decline both directly and indirectly due to manmade causes. The following paper is a discussion of the tiger and what Non-Government Organizations are doing to save them.
The tiger is by far one of the most complex creatures of the cat family. They are found in the African as well as the Asian continents and their sizes vary from place to place. Its fur is unique with black stripes alternated with orange fur and light colored undersides, providing it with camouflage in the bush while it hunts for its prey (Pocock). There are other color variants as well and in some rare cases tigers are born with white fur and black stripes with blue eyes and in some cases with light shades of stripes and white paws (Pocock). Male tigers lead solitary lives, while the females may form small groups of sisters and cubs to nurture the young ones. It can weigh up to eight hundred and fifty pounds and measure up to four meters in length in some sub-species, depending on the environmental conditions they live in (Hunter) The tiger is a complete carnivorous animal with all the features of its body attributed to stealth killing. Tigers are territorial with each tiger aware of other individual tigers’ movements in overlapping ranges. A male tiger may have a home range of sixty to hundred square kilometers while females have a home range of twenty square kilometers. Female ranges overlap with male ranges giving tigers a scope for selection of partners (Davis, Li and Murphy). The size of the range also varies with the abundance of available prey and therefore may vary from ecological settings to behavioral patterns. This behavior is similar to territorial behavior seen in lions. However, tigers have much more complex social bonding than lions as they allow other tigers, mostly females and cubs to share their kill, while lions only allow lionesses and other members of the pride to eat when they are finished eating their prey (Davis, Li and Murphy).
There are several breeds of tigers, each with its own ferocity and unique qualities. There are nine recognized sub-species of the tiger of which three sub-species are considered as extinct. The remaining sub-species include the Siberian Tigers, Royal Bengal Tigers, Indo-chines and Malayan Tiger subspecies, Tigers in South Chinese regions, Tigers found in the islands of Sumatra. Several of these sub-species show variation in behavior and body form to accommodate to the environments they live in or example the Bengal tiger is amphibious in nature as it can swim in water without discomfort (Pocock). Other tigers may submerge themselves in water to cool themselves off (Pocock). This trait is seen only one other species of big cats, the jaguars. Tigers once populated the region between East Turkey and the East Coast of Russia but their numbers have declined rapidly in the twentieth century, with not more than four thousand individual tigers living in the wild, scattered in their respective regional pockets. These numbers are endangered as the on slot of human intervention continues and preying grounds get reduced in size and abundance.
The tiger as one of the apex predators plays an important part in the ecological cycles of an eco-system (Tilson). Such predators are considered as a check on the population of animals living in the eco-system. They complete the nitrogen and carbon cycles in eco-systems and end the food chain. The ecology and the tigers are so densely inter-related that ones’ absence directly affects the working of the other. With decrease in number of tigers and other apex predators, the check on the herbivore population would be removed, leading to imbalance in the ecosystem. Tigers are affected more as imbalances in ecology reduces their preying grounds forcing them to either leave the eco-system or die of hunger. Most of the tigers that are forced to leave their habitat encounter humans. Such direct encounters lead to killing humans and tigers further diminishing their chances of survival.
Tigers have had a deep impact on the culture and ecology of the places they inhabit. Tigers find depiction in many religions as well as art forms, mostly from the Asian territory and are undeniably a part of culture all over the world. Tigers were a major attraction for people in the end of nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century and many animals were kept in zoos or circuses for the entertainment of the masses. Several generations were lost in captivity during this time and numbers in the wild decreased as more and more animals were extracted for their fur, body parts or display purposes (Tilson). Some tigers were even kept as pets by kings while others were used as punishing tools for law breakers. It is said that hungry tigers were set upon law breakers as a form or execution.
The tiger today is an endangered species with less than four thousand left in their natural habitat. The major reasons for tiger deaths are advent of human population, game hunting, poaching for tiger fur, bones and claws, encounters with humans, in-fighting for territory and partners etc. In-fighting amongst tigers is a rare trait as male tigers mostly intimidate intruding males by displays of anger and superiority (Tilson). However, with diminishing hunting grounds and home grounds becoming smaller, tigers are forced to fight each other to keep control, leading to injuries and eventual deaths. Poaching and game hunting are considered as illegal activities and the proceeds of such activities are sold at the black market. Tiger skins were once considered as fashionable accessories in European homes and many tigers were killed and skinned for their fur. Tiger bones and clause are used in some forms of Yunnan medicines due to their healing effects on human beings, and therefore hunting and poaching is common for harvesting these items from poached animals (Tilson). The killing of tigers has been the major cause of their deteriorating numbers and the rest have died out of due to loss of their natural habitat.
Several governments across Asia, Europe and Africa have put policies in place to protect tigers from being killed. It is illegal to kill tigers in their natural habitats and perpetrators are liable to receive heavy punishment for such activities. However, such laws are not enough to help reduce the mortality amongst tigers. Non-Governmental Organizations have been set up to enforce protection of tigers. These organizations work at both national and international levels to conserve tigers, marking reserve areas and reintroducing tigers to habitats that have completely lost them. NGOs like the World Wide Fund for Nature have tried to bring awareness amongst people about this beautiful creature and have set up campaigns for breeding and reintroduction in tiger reserves as well as wild countries to counter the rapidly diminishing population of tigers all over the world.
Asian countries, especially the Indian sub-continent is home to the largest number of tigers in the world. Myanmar has the largest tiger reserve Huakang Valley Reserves covering an area of eight thousand four hundred square miles. Conservation steps have been taken by the Chinese and Indian Government to ban and criminalize poaching of tigers for fur and other body parts and have set up tiger reserves in collaboration with NGOs like Panthera Corporation and Wildlife Conservation Society to help increase the chances of survival of tigers in these reserves. Although the estimated populations are just guessed estimates, NGOs report that it is evident that tigers are an endangered species. A large number of tigers live in captivity and must be reintroduced in their wild habitat to augment the regeneration of the tiger populace. The Tigers Forever initiative have actively taken part in projects to reintroduce tigers into habitats and release of captive tigers in their natural grounds, as well as helping the governments in developing and maintaining tiger reserve areas. Several tiger reserves that are known for their drive against poaching in India are the Jim Corbett National Park Sariska Tiger Reserves and the Ranthambore National Park. Other reserves include territories in China, Russia, coastal regions of India known as the Western Ghats, etc. (Heptner and Sludskii). These areas are strictly marked as out of bounds and human activity and intervention, in the form of building of houses etc. is not allowed. NGOs also monitor the health of reintroduced and re-wild tigers to understand the changes in the environmental patterns and help keep optimum conditions for tigers to survive. However, they face challenges from natives as well as from poachers as maintenance of reserves require a lot space (Heptner and Sludskii) and human intervention cannot be avoided at all times. The booming human population and unstable economies all over the world lead further problems of rehabilitation and reintroduction as well as maintenance of the surviving individuals.
The tigers are magnificent creatures of the wild. They are known for their ferocity and their intelligent behavior (Tilson). However, efforts fall short in supporting the existing population of the tigers all over the globe. Hunting and poaching continue with increased human encroachment of areas that were once home grounds for these creatures. A major part of the data is missing from records that can help ascertain the correct steps to increase the population of the tigers. A lot needs to be done if tigers are to be saved as a species. Global efforts must be made to put an end to the poaching markets and people must be made aware of the deteriorating condition of the tigers.
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