â€śHow many tigers are left in the wild?â€ť is a common question asked at Australia Zoo, and to give an honest answer â€“ nobody really knows! Due to their elusive nature, it is very difficult to give a precise number.
What we do know is that the tiger is on the brink of extinction. In the last sixty years we have lost three sub-species of tiger. The Balinese, Caspian and Javanese tigers are gone forever. It is estimated that just 100 years ago there were over 100,000 tigers in the vast forests of Asia; today it is possible that fewer than 5,000 remain.
The future survival of the tiger is in the hands of humankind. Unfortunately, relentless poaching and habitat loss continues to threaten their existence.
The forests where tigers and their prey live are disappearing at an alarming rate. This is not only due to the pressure that local populations exert on these forests, but also to large multinational companies exploiting these natural habitats for their short-term greed. This habitat destruction further compounds the tiger's struggle by fragmenting and isolating small populations. With less and less habitat, predators and people come into increased conflict. Ultimately the tiger comes off second best!
Another major threat to the tiger is the black market trade in their body parts. These body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines all over the world. It is estimated between one and five tigers are being mindlessly slaughtered every day in the wild to supply this trade. Although illegal, weak law enforcement in most tiger range countries ensures that this trade continues.
The threats that the tiger faces are immense and complex, and we must adopt a holistic approach to effectively deal with them.
Australia Zoo is leading the way in tiger conservation with its revolutionary education programs and the support it offers organisations that are at the front line, actively in the field.
The three organisations that we have supported to date are LifeForce in India, Fauna and Flora International in Sumatra and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature in Bhutan. These organisations not only work with the respective forest officials and staff enhancing protection for the wildlife, but also with the local communities. Working with and gaining the co-operation of these people is vital for the future existence of these forests and wildlife.
Over the last year Australia Zoo has donated nearly $60,000 in direct support. These funds have purchased much needed vehicles and equipment for anti-poaching patrols, as well as funded workshops for forest guards and wildlife rangers.
The workshops were conducted by Australia Zooâ€™s veterinarian, Dr Jon Hanger. The need for the workshop was highlighted by the fact that there has been an increase in the number of animals that have been caught and viciously injured in snares. One of Dr. Hangerâ€™s main initiatives in his workshops was to address this issue and deal with how to catch, handle, treat and then release these animals.
The tiger can be saved but we have to act today. Australia Zoo is making a real difference in the fight to save the tiger in the wild; you can help too by supporting Wildlife Warriors Worldwide.
Big Cat Handler Supervisor