Ahhh the tiger 🐯 Our favourite cat in striped pyjamas. Tigers are a global icon for wildlife and symbolise the beauty and fierceness of the natural world 🐅🌍
📸 Laura Kalina
Tigers are what we in the conservation biz call 'umbrella species' - they're very popular with the public, and if we can try use their fame to raise money to protect their huge habitats, we're also protecting everything that lives with the tiger. A real home-run for conservation! ⚾️
However, whilst fewer than 4,000 tigers exist in the wild, there are >7,000 tigers in farming facilities across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, and South Africa 🐾 Yes, your read that right, tigers are farmed. Their skin is used to decorate the homes of wealthy businessmen (must be compensating for something), teeth and claws are used in ornaments or set in silver/gold as a symbol of power, tiger meat is considered a delicacy, and their bone is used in wine and in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) 💊🔮 Call me crazy, but I'm fine with good old grapes in my wine.
📸 Soggydan Benenovitch
📸 Chaz McGregor
Needless to say there's no scientific backing for their use as a medicine, but due to cultural beliefs this TCM is really in demand 📈 In fact, China has 5,000-6,000 tigers kept in >200 farm facilities across the country 🇨🇳 and Thailand has up to 2,500 in farms and other facilities, like the infamous 'Tiger Temple' 🇹🇭 As a side note, please don't take a picture with a drugged up tiger - a) you look like a douche b) it's not going to help your tinder game, and c) it contributes to the illegal international trade and breeding of captive tigers. Tiger farms actually significantly impact wild tigers, as wild tiger bone is seen as 'purer' and a more high-end product. This GIF sums up my feelings towards that perfectly.
Essentially, tiger farms light the fire of demand amongst consumers, and wild tigers take the flames 🔥 Whilst the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) has made positive decisions to phase out tiger farms (e.g. Decisions 14.69 and 17.229), there's still more work to be done. @cites must take urgent and affirmative actions to end demand for tiger products and the captive tiger trade, so tigers can run free in the wild 🐅 Exhibit A below.
📸 Shannon Wild
Howwwwwever, despite these threats facing wild tigers, populations are clawing their way back up!⚡️🐾 Thanks to conservation efforts, India's tigers increased by 30% in the last 30 yrs and Russia's are on the way up too! 👏 If we can connect up tiger territory, curb the demand for tiger products, help reduce human-tiger conflict, and protect tigers from palm oil by only buying products with sustainable palm oil in, their future could be bright 🐅🌅 With tiger populations rising from 3,200 in 2010 to 3980 in 2016, there’s a whole new energy around the future of this magnificent big cat!🤞🐯
Furthermore, Instagram is now on our side! 👩🏾💻👨🏼💻🌍 Social media platforms may seem an unlikely ally for tackling wildlife trade, but Instagram has stepped up to the plate! Go the gram! 💪 As of 4th December 2017, gram users searching for hashtags associated with illegal wildlife trade (e.g. #TigerSelfie 🐅🤳) get a pop-up, warning that their posts may encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment 📲 For example, many attractions that offer photograph opportunities with a tiger across Asia, like the tiger temple, are likely to be involved in the illegal trade of tigers and products 🐅🌍 Here at #ConCon we believe in the power of social media for wildlife conservation and it's incredible to see an initiative like this in action! 👏