Nepal reaches out for help to save tiger population
The tiger, there is arguably no land animal so beautiful and majestic as this magnificent member of the Felidae family. These creatures have invaded the human imagination for centuries and are the national animals of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Malaysia, as well as North and South Korea.
They have been depicted in a range of Western pop culture mediums, the loveable ‘Tigger’ in Winnie the Pooh, the intimidating Bengal Tiger in the Man Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi, the teddy bear of ‘Calvin’ in the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, the fearsome Machiavellian, Shere Khan, in The Jungle Book, the list is endless and in fact a recent poll by Animal Planet, the famous Cable TV channel, found that the tiger is the world’s favourite animal.
Yet, tragically, these animals are dying at a frightening rate and efforts by national governments to protect them have proven extremely difficult, Nepal is one of several countries in Asia struggling to prevent the extinction of its tiger population due to poaching and the destruction of their habitat. (The picture accompanying this story reveals the extent to which the tiger’s natural habitat has been destroyed – the yellow represents the historical tiger habitat, the green represents their present day habitat).
Last year, Nepal news media reported that government was growing increasingly concerned about the plummeting number of tigers living in the wild in the country. Then-Nepalese PM Madhav Kumar told an international conference on tiger conservation in Nepal that “quick measures” were needed to protect the species from extinction.
At the time, just 3,500 tigers were living in the wild across the world and World Bank President at the time, Robert Zoellick, told Nepal news media that poaching and the sale and international trade of body parts and skins of the animals were the greatest threat after habitat destruction, a worldwide industry that is valued at around $10 billion per year. Only weapons and drug smuggling are worth more than this.
The conference was attended by 200 delegates from 20 countries, at the time, the prime minister called for collective action.
“Global and regional solidarity and collective strategies armed with concrete actions are more necessary now than ever,” he told the conference.
The conference came just one year after officials managing Nepal’s Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve reported a staggering decrease in the protected area’s population of tigers, down from 20 in 2005 to just 6 to 14 in 2008. An investigation by the World Wildlife Fund found that poaching was the most likely cause, according to Nepal news media reports.
This was because no significant decrease in tiger prey populations were found and neither were any tiger corpses, indicating the presence of poachers. Almost every part of a tiger’s body is valuable on the illegal wildlife market, which means no trace of the crime is left.
Now, Nepal news media are reporting that the government is reaching out to the international donor community for help in halting the sharp declines in the country’s tiger population. The appeal to donors forms part of the World Wildlife Fund’s “Save the Tigers Campaign”, which has seen celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio travelling to the country to meet with conservations officials and raise publicity of the issue.
The government is hoping to raise $43 million and double its tiger population by 2022 as part of an extensive breeding and re-wilding campaign.
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