The magnificent cat, which even greatest warriors failed to tame, fell a prey to the brutal shots of poachers. Global greed to wear tiger skins and trade every organ of their body for money has killed over 95% of tigers in the world. The remaining are scattered in pockets of eastern India and a few in Bangladesh.
Even lesser in population, the white tigers are a rare sight in Siberia. This fierce animal that can kill its prey with one gnaw by its razor-sharp teeth, faces the greatest chances of extinction. A century ago the number of tigers were estimated at 100,000, a number which has depleted to a timid figure of 3,890.
Reasons Why Tigers are Endangered
Poaching has been the cause of decreasing tiger population. Ancient rulers to fashionistas have had tigers hunted for their characteristic fur. The magnificent black stripes on the orange body have been a prey for several royal carpets, wall hangings and fur coats. However, this trend is a passé now, and tigers are hunted for several other selfish reasons.
Today, the poachers target bones, claws and tiger nails, which are believed to have medicinal properties. A range of traditional Chinese medicines use tiger body parts to make pain killers, balms, ointments, and other medicines. China and India, the only places which relatively have a notable tiger population, have been biggest poachers of this century.
Superstitions Related to Tiger Body Parts
- It is believed that tiger tail has the medicinal properties to cure skin cancer. For this reason, the tail bone is ground and mixed in soaps prescribed for such patients.
- The tail bone is also believed to ward off evil spirits around the wearer. Similarly, hanging tiger feet dipped in palm oil on your front door will fight the evil spirits.
- Taiwanese make a general tonic by mixing crushed tiger bones and wine.
- Fever caused by ghosts (probably unknown diseases) is cured by sitting on tiger skin. However, the legend has it that if you sit on it any longer than what is required, you'll turn into a tiger!
- The smell of brunt tiger hair is supposed to drive away centipedes.
- Tiger brain mixed with body oil is known to cure acne and laziness.
- They say, toothaches can be cured by tiger whiskers and not dentists!
- Wearing a tiger's claw around your neck will apparently protect the wearer and be a lucky charm in troubled times.
- The courage of a tiger can be obtained by eating a tiger's heart.
Loss of Habitat
Loss of habitat is another reason why tigers are endangered. Rise in population and human settlements around forest areas have led to lesser territorial grounds for a lot of tigers. Many a time, it is difficult to say whether a missing tiger was poached or killed naturally.
The reason being, when a male tiger is killed, the female tiger finds it difficult to defend her territory from other dominant males of the same species. The intensive struggle between the groups, often kills the cubs, destroying a generation and disrupting a breeding cycle.
Despite the growing conservation national parks, these wild animals cannot be kept in limits of the same. The ones that go stray, gets poisoned because the locals fear losing their livestock to it.
The defiant tiger tops the food chain as it balances vegetation by keeping hoofed stocks in check. However, little do hunters and others realize the importance this animal in our ecosystem. Paying heed to the deteriorating state of tigers, India launched 'Project Tiger' in 1972 to protect tigers.
The project aims to save tigers, by conserving their natural habitat and serving severe punishments to the poachers. With 40 tiger sanctuaries this initiative has helped increase tiger population by 1,200 from 1970s.
However, according to 2008 census the number of tigers have dropped to 1,411, which puts all the effort in vain and brings the revered cat on the brink of extinction. But, according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) survey of 2016, this number has increased to 3,890.