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lunes, febrero 15, 2010

Saving The Tiger: First Steps

Tigers are on the brink of extinction. This fact brought me initially surprise, and then immediately grief, despair, rage, anger and sadness. So, I've written about it-- this is the fourth essay in a week -- in an effort to alert others to this catastrophe. I consider the extinction of tigers and other big cats an environmental emergency, an impending disaster.

The first big cat extinction since the saber tooth tiger became extinct 10,000 years ago is an extremely important event and a cause for great concern. Tigers are the top of the jungle food chain. They're "megafauna", the kind of big, well known animal that is an indicator of the jungle's health. When there are many, and they are healthy, the jungle, an interconnected web of life of many interdependent species of animals and plants, is healthy. And when there are few, in fact, so few that extinction of the largest animal in the ecosystem is a distinct possibility, it means the jungle is dying.

If tigers are on the brink of extinction, so too is the jungle, so too is the planet. Here are data:

More tigers are kept in captivity in the U.S. than are left in the wild -- and there are few regulations to keep these tigers from ending up on the black market. The largest numbers of captive tigers are in Texas (an estimated 3,000+), but they are also kept in other states.

With pelts selling for $20,000 and a single paw worth as much as $1,000, the value of a dead tiger has never been higher, say those who investigate the trade. Last month the Indian government announced a surge in killings of tigers by poachers, with 88 found dead in 2009, double the previous year. Because figures are based on carcasses found on reserves or tiger parts seized at border crossings, conservationists say the true number is far higher.

What is causing the extinction? The threats to tiger survival are apparently quite clear. There don't seem to be any mysteries. The threats are mainly population growth, deforestation, hunting, poaching, and the illegal trade of tiger bones and other parts. Private, unregulated captivity of tigers in the US may contribute to illegal trade in their bones and other parts.

Permit me to cut to the chase. I am painfully aware that I have no idea what to do to halt the extinction of tigers. I personally have no plan. But others clearly do. As small, interim steps, I suggest your immediate support to the following:

Panthera. I discovered Panthera yesterday. I gave them a donation. Panthera uses 100% of donations for preservation projects. You can earmark your gift to a particular species.

Big Cat Rescue

World Wildlife Fund

This is the Internet. Small contributions by large numbers of people can make enormous changes possible. I am happy to have made a donation to Panthera. I hope you will join me.

I also suggest spreading the story of this extinction far and wide. Use the Internet to spread it. The situation merits serious attention. Yes, the tiger is not alone in facing extinction; there are many large cats across the world that also face extinction. These include the Iberian Lynx, the Florida Panther, and jaguars throughout Central America. But the tiger, because of the Chinese New Year and 2010 being the Year of the Tiger, is right now the most visible animal humans are driving into extinction. That is a story that needs to be told. It needs to be reflected upon. And it merits serious discussion about just what can be done to save the tiger and spare the planet. But before there can be a discussion, the news of this extinction needs to be spread. I am happy to do that. I hope you will join me.

Yesterday, as a comment to an essay, LaFeminista posted William Blake's famous poem:

Tiger Tiger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears:
Did he smile His work to see?
Did he who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger Tiger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

She and I both sigh at this 1794 poem. And I ask, more than 2 centuries after Blake wrote it, "What mortal hands dare destroy thy fearful symmetry?" How dare we permit this devastation to occur.

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