In the last century, three subspecies of tiger (Bali, Caspian, and Javan) have become extinct. The five subspecies left (bengal, Indo-chinese, Siberian, South China, and Sumatran) are critically endangered. Due to an increasing human population, the tiger's habitats are diminishing. With the commercializing of once protected areas and rampant poaching, tigers are disappearing.
Tiger parts poached from the reserves go to many places in the world as the demand for Chinese traditional medicine with tiger ingredients continues. Every part of the tiger's body is used for treatment, charms, or decoration.
A 10 year study reported that the tiger's body parts are of no significant value as a treatment/remedy. People who use traditional medicines with tiger ingredients belive a powerful mystique surrounds the tiger in the wild; they insist that these are the body parts that are more medicinally potent.
Bengal tigers are the most numerous. At one time, they roamed the entire diverse climate of India to Nepal, Bangladesh, and Burma. Indians have always treasured their forests as central to their view of social harmony. India was the first country to initiate the conservation of tigers, "Project Tiger". In 1973, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi set aside 23 reserves to protect the tiger, India's national symbol.
Today, satellite data reveals the forests are shrinking which is isolating the tigers. Since Gandhi, a more decentralized government turned to commercial interests and less investment to the protection of their forests or tigers.
Coal mining (strip-mining), logging, cattle grazing, and roads to access enterprises cut into protected areas and dissolved corridors. Through the 80s and 90s, poachers overwhelmed the field-support personnel on the severely understaffed reserves.
The white tiger is a Bengal tiger from Central India. The fur is a creamy white; and it has distinctive blue eyes, a pink and grayish nose, and pink paw pads. The stripes are brown to grayish black. For thousands of years, the white tiger has been the reoccurrence of a recessive color gene. With two recessive alleles, one received from each parent to make up its coloration gene, a white tiger cub can be born from regular colored parents as long as each has given one recessive color gene to the offspring.
At the tunr of the last century, the populations of Bengal tigers were 40,000 and white tigers were still sighted in the wild. It is estimated that it takes a population of 10,000 to produce one white tiger and by mid-century, the number of Bengal tigers in India had drastically dropped. By people hunting them and crowding out their habitats, the remaining tiger population was disappearing in rapid numbers. One of the first dramatic signs of the tiger's devastation was that of the last known white tiger cub in the wild, rescued in 1951.
The Maharaja of Rewa retrieved a white male cub and named it Mohan. Hunters had killed Mohan's mother and siblings. The Maharaja reared the cub in the palace guesthouse. Mohan had many litters and eventually produced white tiger cubs when mated with one of his offspring. In 1960, a white tiger was gifted to the National Zoo in Washington, DC. Fron there, offspring went to the Cincinnati Zoo. It is estimated that 200 white tigers, Mohan's progeny, exist in the world. Conservationists hope that some tigers in the reserves carry the recessive coloration gene and one day will produce a white tiger.
The Siberian tigers are the largest of the cats. Their stripe patterns are similar to fingerprints; no two tigers are the same. With the dismantling of the USSR, the Russian borders were unpatrolled. The lack of protection for the Siberian tiger was an invitation for poaching activity. However, Russia is receiving help to protect and study the tiger and their habitats. Once the Siberian tigers' habitat ranged north to the Arctic Circle, east Russia to the northern China border. Still with such a large area there are fewer than 1000 Siberian tigers left.
South China Tigers
In the 1960s, Chairman Mao Zedong outlawed South China tigers, declaring them pests to the 'peoples' food supply. The tiger population went from 4,000 to 20. By most reports, the South China tiger in the wild has not been seen for 10 years.
Tigers are important beings to the earth and should not be viewed as another resource for humans to consume. In the last century, over 95% of the tiger population has disappeared. Even in captivity, some people who care for big cats make the tigers' life short and miserable.
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