The Chinese Year of the Tiger is likely to draw attention to the animals and could put more pressure on the dwindling population of the wild cats.
In China, tiger skin fetches a high price and is used as furniture and decoration. Its body parts are used in traditional medicine and aphrodisiacs. Even though China banned tiger trading in 1993, there are some who still consider owning tiger skin a status symbol.
Suchanda Kundu, member, Sanctuary Asia, said: “It is really in the hands of the Chinese government what they do during the Year of Tiger. If they appeal that next year will be the year of their conservation and the tigers should not be killed, then the poaching can come down.”
“But if superstition prevails that by eating tigers one can become powerful, then the poaching will definitely increase.”
From India, tigers and leopards are smuggled to China via Myanmar and Nepal.
It is estimated that there are only about 1,400 tigers left in the wild in India.
The tiger population here is almost entirely limited to reserves and protected areas.
But tribal groups living in these reserves also pose a threat to the tigers. It is common to see tigers killed because they have strayed into villages and fields.
Depleting forest cover and lack of a natural habitat for the animals are some of the major reasons why the wild cats stray out of their habitat.
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority has proposed that farmers practise strip farming so that the cats can know where the forest ends and agricultural land begins.
Suchanda Kundu said: “The tiger is a flagship species. If we save the tiger, we can conserve the entire biodiversity – forests, trees, plants, insects, animals, even the human population. We can have a future only if we conserve the tiger.”
In this time of rising man-animal conflict, it has become more difficult for these magnificent creatures to survive. Fencing the tiger reserves is a tall order. The only way to deal with it is through local support and teaching people about respecting wildlife.
Adapted from: Channel News Asia