Friday, September 17, 2010

Wild tigers: Not in my backyard thankfully

As a member of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the Bronx Zoo, I’ve been getting e-mails lately from the group asking for my help in protecting wild tigers.
Sounds like a noble cause, right?
“Wild tigers are on the brink of extinction,” Joe Walston, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia program, said in an e-mail plea. “Victims of brutal poaching and habitat loss, there are as few as 3,200 of these majestic and awe-inspiring animals left and their numbers are declining daily.”
Americans have no problem supporting tigers in the wild because we don’t have them here.
How would we feel about the situation if there were 3,200 potential man-eaters roaming around our country?
We freak out when an occasional coyote kills a pet dog or attacks a child, as happened recently in Westchester County, N.Y.
In the U.S., we’ve done a good job eliminating wild animal threats. In other words, we’ve killed off a lot of predators capable of killing humans. There are still alligators, bears and cougars in the U.S., but mostly in remote areas and they’re largely under control.
But none of those beasts are as threatening as tigers, which can measure up to 9 feet long.
Here are some facts from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s website:
“Expert hunters who kill their prey with a bite to the throat or back of the neck, tigers are carnivores that eat large mammals like deer, pigs and buffalo. In order to satisfy their large appetites—and their offspring—these big cats must have access to wide swaths of land and large populations of prey.”
Yikes!
The largest tiger population is now in India, but there are wild populations in numerous Asian countries.
In 2006, WCS and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, together launched Tigers Forever, a collaborative effort aimed at increasing tiger numbers by 50% at eight WCS tiger landscapes across Asia over 10 years.
OK, as long as they stay in Asia. I can support that.
The Wildlife Conservation Society is encouraging people to write their congressmen to support the Global Conservation Act of 2010 to help save wild tigers and other imperiled species from extinction.
If passed, the act would require the six federal agencies that conduct conservation programs around the world “to pursue a unified strategy to stop illegal wildlife poaching and to reverse environmental destruction endangering tiger populations,” Walston wrote.

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