Well, at last the Indian government, in the form of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, are doing something about the inexorable decline in the tiger population in their country. This is happening at the eleventh hour, when the tiger is possibly within as little as 10 years of becoming extinct in the wild. They are going to ban tourists from the 37 reserves. The reasoning is that the presence of large numbers of tourists (as many as 40 vehicles surrounding one tiger in a reserve at one time) are habituating tigers to human presence thereby making it easier for poachers to kill the remaining estimated 1,411 (at 2008) tigers in India.
Big business, which has always been in charge is fighting back. The tourism business will be damaged and tigers are big tourism business in the form of hotels and excursions. However, it is argued that the tourism business has behaved irresponsibly, trying to get too much of the action after the body parts traders have had their first share.
It is claimed that tourism is changing the tiger’s breeding patterns and general behaviour. Sometimes tigers can be injured or worse by vehicles. A tiger cub was apparently run over and killed (total madness really).
The greatest threat will always be habitat loss, human activity increase due to human population growth and commercial activity including poaching for body parts to supply, primarily, the Chinese Medicine business.
Tiger body parts are some of the most expensive items per pound in the world, even more expensive than printer ink and that is saying something.
Tiger bone goes for £800 per pound and a skin for £7,500. Tiger penis sells for £3,755. Here is a comparison chart:
|Item||Price per lb (£)|
|Tiger Penis||15,000 (estimated 4 oz per penis)|
|Gold||9,600 (£600 per ounce)|
Er, as I guessed, tiger penis is one of the most expensive commodities in the world and it will go up and up as the tiger will inevitably become rarer and rarer.
What the Indian government is doing is undeniably good but it is nowhere near enough. There has to be radical change and complete commitment to beat the poachers. The tiger is too valuable to poachers. It is a great commercial product with a ready and huge market, Chinese medicine. Unless the Chinese government and the other Asian countries tackle tiger parts sales at the consumer end the tiger population will decline further without massive protection by the Indian authorities, which translates into much more than the tiger reserves banning tourists.
Update: the following video is interesting in that is tells us how scarse the tiger is in the Sunderbans one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger. The reserves are apparently overcrowded with tourists looking for tiger but the last natural refuge/reserve is almost without the tiger. He has gone (almost); gradually eradicated through human population expansion and activity and global warming which has increased water levels.