Image credit: Freeland
With the uncertainty surrounding China’s decision on reopening its domestic trade in tiger bones, it’s clear that the threat to wild tigers remains high on the conservation agenda.
DSWF is funding an important tiger project in Thailand where one of the last remaining populations of Indo-Chinese tigers lives. Official estimates suggest that the whole population on mainland Indochina numbers just over 350. Our project partners Freeland are working hard to protect and monitor these tigers in a central forest area of Thailand.
Tigers are one of the world’s most recognisable and popular animals and feature prominently in mythology and folklore throughout history and cultures.
At the beginning of the 20th century, nine subspecies of tiger roamed the Asian wilderness, with estimated populations of over 100,000.
It’s shocking that in less than 100 years, tigers have lost 93% of their historical range, seen the extinction of three subspecies and now a mere 3,200 remain in the wild. So how has this iconic species declined by 97% in just a century?
Tiger parts and derivatives have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicines for millennia, supporting the belief that they cure disease, replenish the body’s essential energy and they are associated with wealth and traditional culture.
After decades of poaching, tigers were almost entirely extinct in China, which declared ‘a national scarcity’ in 1985. This defining moment led to two key events which further threatened the future survival of wild tigers. Firstly, in 1986 China opened its first commercial tiger farm to try to satisfy consumer demand. Secondly, and as a direct result, the demand for tiger parts skyrocketed.
With the rapid rise in tiger farms throughout China driving demand, poaching levels of wild tigers - seen as a premium product - increased.
As a result of the legal trade, tigers are now on a direct path towards extinction and could disappear from the face of the planet within our lifetime. Our first step must be a complete and comprehensive ban of all captive breeding farms.
Following dramatic population declines and international pressure, the government banned the domestic trade in tiger bones in 1993. But last month China threatened to lift this ban, a decision which was swiftly withdrawn following international outrage.
This uncertainty makes our work to protect rare tigers in Thailand all the more important. Freeland is working in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai World Heritage site, which has now been established as only the second breeding population of Indochinese tigers globally. Their work with these tigers is of critical importance for the future of this species.
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Click here to find out more about how we are protecting wild tigers.
Image credit: Freeland