Tiger's death highlights concerns

By John Dean - 28 Jul 2011 13:51:0 GMT
Tiger's death highlights concerns

It comes to something for a species when the death of a single animal can represent a disaster - but that's what has happed in Indonesia. The concern about the recent death of the Sumatran Tiger indicates wider concerns for a species that is now down to just 400 in the wild.

According to Greenpeace, the Sumatran Tiger was rescued after being caught in a trap on the border of an area used for extensive felling associated with the pulp and paper industry. Having been trapped for six days, it was found by forest officers but they were too late to save it.

The organisation says that the tiger was found in an area undergoing heavy disruption from tree felling and the assumption is that it had moved away from its home to escape the workmen.

Greenpeace says that the remaining 400 Sumatran tigers face danger because paper and pulp operations continue apace in Indonesia, destroying its hunting grounds.

There are similar concerns in India, which is home to more than half the world's tiger population, although there are signs suggesting the future looks a little more optimistic for a  number of sub-species. Most recent estimate from the country's National Tiger Conservation Authority put the tiger population as low as 1,571 or as much as 1,875. In 2008, the tiger population figure stood at 1,411.

Although conservation work, including large protected areas, is having an effect, there do remain concerns about the impact on tiger habitats of activities such as mining, the construction of thermal and hydroelectric dams and poaching.

According to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the country still holds the best chance for saving the tiger in the wild because 17 States have the animals with seven of them having more than 100.

The latest estimates from pressure group WWF for worldwide tiger numbers indicates that it may be as low as 3,200 although there have been some suggestions that the figure may be only 2,500.

In response to the crisis, WWF is working with a range of organisations to double numbers within eleven years. Indeed, last year, during the 2010 Year of the Tiger, Russia convened a meeting where leaders of the 13 countries that still have tigers committed to doubling the number of tigers.

According to WWF's mission statement on the subject: "We can save wild tigers. We are concentrating our efforts on protecting key landscapes where the big cats have the best chance of surviving and increasing over the long-term. Five decades of conservation experience has shown us that given enough space, prey and protection, tigers can recover."

The cost of failing in that goal is high; the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers have all died out in the past 70 years and the six remaining sub-species - Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, South China, and Sumatran - live only in Asia, and are all under threat.