Tigers currently roam freely in 13 countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. But each of these countries, on average, has only about 250 tigers (though the exact number varies from place to place). Tigers’ habitat, in the AP’s words, is being destroyed “by forest cutting and construction, and” — rather disturbingly and perversely — because “they are a valuable trophy for poachers who want their skins and body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine.”
The Global Tiger Recovery Program aims, the AP reports, “to protect tiger habitats, eradicate poaching, smuggling, and illegal trade of tigers and their parts, and also create incentives for local communities to engage them in helping protect the big cats.”
So the plan to save the tiger will move forward on several fronts. The AP reports that “[the head of the World Wildlife Fund, James] Leape said that along with … [taking] stronger action against poaching, it’s necessary to set up specialized reserves for tigers and restore and conserve forests outside them to let tigers expand.” Leape adds, “And you have to find a way to make it work for the local communities so that they would be partners in [tiger] conservation and benefit from them.”
All of this, of course, will require money. And the $350 million that the tiger summit hopes to raise is a lot of money. But it’s less than a day’s worth of ObamaCare — literally. (Once up and running — if not repealed — ObamaCare would cost more than $500 million a day.) Even without the compulsion of the taxman, $350 million seems an attainable goal. That’s only about $1 for every American, never mind contributions from the rest of the world.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who attended the tiger summit, made news this week by donating $1 million to the World Wildlife Fund to help conserve tigers’ habitats. Again, this might prompt mocking in some quarters, as actors and actresses are easy to lampoon — and often justly. But why not think of it instead as a wonderful example of a private citizen (and a tremendous actor, to boot) exercising his natural right to control his own property and to use it in the service of good. There are a lot of other things that DiCaprio could have done with that million dollars, but I, for one, am glad he chose this.
His motivation? DiCaprio says it well: “If we don’t take action now, one of the most iconic animals on our planet could be gone in just a few decades.”
The powerful tiger has to be on — and may well head — the short list of the most gorgeous and splendid animals in all of creation. And yet many of the greatest of animals, the tiger and the great apes chief among them, are in very serious jeopardy of essentially disappearing from the wild. The AP reports that tiger populations have declined by over 40 percent in the past decade alone, and three of the nine tiger subspecies (the Bali, Javan, and Caspian) have all become extinct — and not just in the wild — since around the start of World War II.
One might be motivated by the biblical teaching that the creation of the animals was “good” and by our attendant responsibility to exercise “dominion” over them in a way that isn’t tyrannical but is just, or by the notion that a world in which a tiger can only be found in a zoo is an impoverished and imbalanced place. Or perhaps one’s motivation is simply a general sense of duty to protect incarnations of greatness, grandeur, and beauty in our world.
Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to take action. I encourage you to do so. The tiger is well worth saving.