Save the Tiger Save the Planet
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The charisma of the tiger has inspired poets, persuaded nations to adopt it as their emblem, and sold everything from gasoline to sport merchandise and confectionery. Yet universal appeal has not assured the survival of the tiger in the wild.
There is still a chance to save the tiger from extinction, but that will require a concerted effort in the two largest developing economies, China and India — to control the trade in tiger parts, and to protect habitats.
Of the seven sub-species of the tiger (Panthera tigris), the Balinese, Javanese and Caspian tigers have already disappeared and the South China tiger is on the brink.
India is the last hope for the future of the species because it has the largest number of wild tigers and a conservation infrastructure with a system of connected protected areas. But tragically, India’s tiger population too has collapsed. Experts say that according to the latest census as well as corroborating evidence, the Indian population of tigers has plummeted dangerously close to the tipping point for the loss of the species.
By its position in the natural order, protection of the tiger is a proxy for the state of environmental sustainability in the country. Judging by the status of the tiger — and other magnificent animals — we would have to discount some of the impressive economic growth that India has achieved in the last decade. How could this have happened? Far and away, the first cause of the crisis is poaching to satisfy the demand for tiger products for traditional oriental medicine in China and other parts of East Asia.
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