Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week: Tigers
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Quotation and joke
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
(William Blake, “The Tyger”, in Songs of Experience (c. 1794) )
Think of animals under threat of extinction, and the chances are that tigers will be high up on your list. In the late nineteenth century it was thought that there were something in the region of 40,000 tigers in the wild in the Indian Empire. But destruction of viable habitats for tigers (through farming and other expansion of human activity) and over-hunting meant that by the time of the first all-India tiger census in 1972, there were only 1,827 tigers in the wild.
It didn’t take much to persuade the international community that a response to the rapidly dwindling numbers was needed quickly. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India, threw her weight behind Project Tiger, an initiative to create reservations where tigers could roam freely without fear of being hunted by poachers. The first nine of these were set up in 1973 and 1974, and since then a further 19 have been set up. Most of them are in the northern half of the country, including perhaps the most famous one, Ranthambore in Rajasthan. At the same time, India imposed a nationwide ban on tiger hunting in 1970; and when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) entered into force in 1975, tigers were listed in Appendix I as a species in which all trade was totally banned.
Nevertheless, numbers are still dangerously low. When we went to Sariska in 2002, there were thought to be 27 tigers in the 866 square kilometres which the reserve covers. But we didn’t see any – the only evidence of tigers were a few pug-marks in the dust at the side of the road, and more than one of the people in our party reckoned that they’d been put there by our guides earlier in the morning using a stamp. And then in 2004, even the indirect evidence of tiger presence (pugmarks, scat, scratch-marks on trees) disappeared. The Forestry Department and Project Tiger reckoned that the tigers had moved temporarily and would be back after the rainy season – but in 2005 an emergency census confirmed that there were indeed no tigers left there.
So why are the tigers disappearing? Up until the 1980s the blame fell mostly on habitat loss. Since then, however, there’s been evidence that poachers are to blame. Tiger body parts are used by some Chinese traditional medicine practitioners to treat a wide range of ailments. Perhaps the most famous uses include the tiger’s penis as an aphrodisiac, and powdered tiger bones in wine as a general tonic, particularly for rheumatism. There are several others of varying degrees of bizarreness, such as rubbing yourself with tiger brains mixed in oil to cure laziness and acne, or ground tiger tail bones mixed with soap to cure skin cancer. The one thing all these “cures” have in common is that none of them have any scientific evidence to back the claims for their efficacy.
Nevertheless, the trade continues. Some non-governmental organisations are now arguing that the trade should be legalised, pointing to the revival in crocodile numbers in the wild which resulted from the establishment of farms for the crocodile leather industry. And there are at least five tiger farms in China with a total population greater than the number of tigers in the wild worldwide. They were originally set up in the 1980s for the medicine trade, but when this revenue stream was cut off the owners were left with a wasting asset. If allowed to supply the trade once more, this would remove – in theory – the need to poach wild tigers.
Most conservationists argue vehemently against relaxing the ban. The economic argument against tiger poaching is only theoretical. In practice it’s an expensive business to rear tigers in captivity, whereas a wild tiger can be killed very cheaply using poison or electrical cables. And those people who use tigers in medicine believe that wild tigers are more efficacious.
So what to do with the captive tigers in the meantime? They could be released into the wild to help conservation efforts, but the fact is that they’re from a relatively narrow gene pool and wouldn’t do much to help survival of the populations they were added to. And there’s little incentive for the farmers to keep them as tourism brings in less than a third of the revenue needed to keep the farms running and the tigers fed. Small wonder, then, that some of them have been selling tiger meat illegally.
Meanwhile, the numbers continue to dwindle. A tiger zoo just up the road from us had 400 Bengal tigers at one time. But then they were accidentally fed chicken infected with bird flu, which killed 30 of them – and another 80 had to be culled to stop the infection spreading.
I’m not mad keen on the idea of tigers roaming freely in the wild just up the road from me – and one of our pals would lose no sleep at all over them disappearing from the wild altogether. But I still find the idea that such a majestic animal could become extinct rather shocking.
Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell?
Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:
Valmik Thapar is one of India’s most outspoken tiger conservationists. He’s been particularly scathing about the Indian Government’s efforts to address the most recent tiger crisis. [Obsolete link removed]
You can find out more about tiger conservation – and about nature protection efforts generally – at [Obsolete link removed] (They’re building the world’s biggest tiger mosaic out of photos right now, as it happens.)
Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:
- warner brothers vulture
- jolly roger lingere
- steven walker a personal attorney to the late engineer robert m.
- morris baldrick
- very old food
- georgian traditional nuts grape juice
- waffles don t lie
- big bools
- who is bob comuke
- why do i constantly get error messages
Till next time…
Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat Magazine
“Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings.”
– Indian Proverb
Two tigers are stalking through the undergrowth in single file when the one to the rear reaches out with his tongue and licks the bottom of the tiger in front. The startled tiger turns around and says, “Hey! Pack it in, will you?”
The rear tiger says, “Sorry,” and they continue. After about another five minutes, the rear tiger again reaches out with his tongue and licks the bottom of the tiger in front.
The front tiger turns around and cuffs the rear tiger and snarls, “I said, stop it!”
The rear tiger says, “Sorry,” and they continue. After about another five minutes, the rear tiger once more licks the bottom of the tiger in front.
The front tiger turns around and roars at the rear tiger, “Look, what’s your problem, mate?”
The rear tiger replies, “Well, I’ve just eaten a lawyer and I’m trying to get the taste out of my mouth!”