The world’s population of tigers have some basic necessities in order to survive. These are water, food (which comprises solely of prey, since tigers are carnivores) and vegetation in which these animals can conceal themselves. When these elements are no longer available to them, their chances of survival diminish astronomically. This is the situation that faces the tigers of the world today.
As human populations increase, urbanisation and development seem to be a necessary evil, robbing the wildlife of their natural habitat. As their room for roaming, living and hunting shrinks, they are forced to live in areas where there is now a shortage of viable prey, or in which they are in almost direct contact with human populations. Where this is the case, they are quickly hunted or killed due to fear or the threat of their killing the local farmers’ livestock.
The human population of India, which is one of the chief homes of the magnificent tiger, has grown by 50% in only two decades. Similarly, China’s population has more than doubled in just 40 years. This means that more space is required to accommodate the human population and the infrastructure that they require (towns, roads, farmland, and so on). As a result, an astonishing amount of forests and other natural habitats have been destroyed to make room.
Another threat to the habitat of predators like tigers is the loss of their prey. The occupation of the land usually causes many of the prey species to be forced to move, or to die out as a result of the loss of vegetation, on which they feed. As their prey dies out, so will the tigers. In addition, the human population frequently hunts the same animals that the tiger feeds on, causing their numbers to dwindle. With a shortage of viable prey, the tigers are more and more desperate for food. They may begin to approach villages or farms in search of their cattle or sheep. This strikes fear in the heart of the locals, who are likely to kill the tiger for their safety and that of their animals. There simply are not enough tigers to survive this threat.
Logging refers to the destruction of forests for the wood that they produce, or to make room for urban settlements. In Indonesia, approximately three-quarters of the original forests have already been destroyed by humans, while China’s figures are far higher, at a devastating 99% of its forests now gone at the hand of human interference and development.
Much of this destruction is as a result of enormous corporate stalwarts that exploit the natural resources of the east for their own selfish greed. In many of these areas, logging is now illegal, a measure put in place to try and recoup the last remaining forests. However, it is still a thriving industry, whether legal or not.
Reserves have been established throughout the world to try and rehabilitate the tiger populations, particularly in the areas that are classified as their natural habitat. However, space is limited, as is the funding required to tackle such a massive initiative.
What is more, a huge programme of education is essential to ensure that local communities understand the dangers that the tigers face and work hard to cooperate with local efforts to save the habitat and, therefore, the predator that occupies it.1
By Amelia Meyer