|Action Request:||Think About|
How many people are there today on Earth? About 7 billion. How many Snow leopards are left in the wild? 4000. A striking difference! How many Siberian tigers, largest, the most powerful cats in the world are left in the wild? 400. About 3200 tigers including all subspecies are estimated in the world (Tiger(1), par 1). How many Amur leopards? 30! (Red List). How many Bali tigers? 0. How many Caspian tigers? 0 (Brakefield, 10). How many Barbary lions? 0. How many Javan tigers? 0. Well, I have nothing to be happy about.
According to the encyclopedia of Mammals, the term “big cats” includes seven species: lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, snow leopard and clouded leopard (26). A fundamental distinction between the big cats and the small cats is that the big cats can roar but cannot purr whereas the small cats can purr continuously but cannot roar (26).
So, what is the big cats problem? Big cats problem is the fact that due to human activity big cats are most severely threatened species in the world. The Amur leopard is one of the most “endangered” animal in the world (Big cats facts, par 6). The tiger is also the most threatened with extinction (Tiger(2), par 1). Snow leopards are listed as “Endangered” on the International Union Red List of “Threatened” Species (Snow Leopards, par 2). The jaguar is a “threatened” species and the lion is “vulnerable” (Why Are Big Cats Endangered, par 3).
Despite cats’ reputation for ferocity, these majestic predators face more danger than they pose: all of them are endangered, due mainly to poaching, habitat loss, and dwindling populations of their prey (Big Cats, par 1).
I. The first massive threat to these iconic animals is poaching, which includes poaching for animal parts and poaching for keeping animals in captivity.
The targets of poaching for parts are usually pelts, bones, whiskers and other vital parts. Wildlife trafficking is thought to be the third most valuable illicit commerce in the world, after drugs and weapons, worth an estimated $10 billion a year, according to the U.S. State Department (Bergman, pg 1, par 4). An immense black market wildlife trade exists in Asia induced by Chinese beliefs about specific healing and aphrodisiac qualities of animal parts (Brown). Many Chinese people believe that if you consume a tiger or part of a tiger you inherit something of that tiger (Brown). Tiger skins have become cherished trophies among China’s nouveau riche (Jacobs, par 3). Pelts cost $20,000 and a single paw is worth as much as $1,000. The value of a dead tiger has never been higher, say those who investigate the trade. On January 12, 2010, the Indian government announced a surge in killings of tigers by poachers, with 88 found dead in 2009, double the previous year (Jacobs, par 4). The poaching linked to China wiped out the Bengali tiger in many even well-known wildlife resorts in India (Dattatri, video). Poaching has another invisible consequence: dozens of cubs are left to die without their mothers. For example, just a few days ago on March 17, 2012, a 5-6-month old male Amur tiger cub was found by ecologists in the forest (Veterinarians Fail to Save Rescued Tiger Cub, par 2). But despite all veterinarian efforts the animal died. A few days before it happened his sister was found. She is now in a rehabilitation center for wild animals (Amur Tiger Cub Rescued in Primorye, par 1). Their mother most probably died from poachers.
Poaching for keeping animals in captivity. There are more tigers in American backyards than there are in the wild around the world (Tigers Among US, par 1). According to WWF, the United States has one of the largest populations of captive tigers in the world − about 5,000 tigers, compared to as few as 3,200 in the wild (Tigers Among US, par 2). Most of them are in private possession: they are found in backyards, urban apartments, sideshows, truck stops and private breeding facilities (Tigers Among US, par 2). The captive tiger population of China is estimated to be over 5000, too (Tigers Among US 2010 Year of the tiger, par 1). If you don't believe me, type “tiger cubs for sale” on Google. You will be very surprised by the results! Another country, the United Arab Emirates, has great demand for them as a result of the high percent of rich people who consider big wild animals as a sign of status and wealth (Simpson, par 17).
Canned hunting (caged hunting) is the killing of an animal in an enclosure, with no chance of escape, in order to obtain a trophy (Trophy Hunting, par.1). By almost any measure, hunting preserves are enjoying a boom: up to 2,000 may exist in the U.S., with 500 in Texas alone where very often the rarest cats are being killed (Kluger, 3). In South Africa in addition to canned hunting when the rare big cats are killed, trophy hunting for big game blooms. Lions, cheetahs and leopards are all fair game for trophy hunters, who bring £100m to South Africa each year (Carus, par1). For poor African countries, the trophy hunting is very valuable source of incoming money. Americans are by far the most keen to spend around $60,000 on trophy hunts in Africa, but British and German hunters drive demand too. European hunters have killed many thousands of leopards and elephants since 1996, according to the League Against Cruel Sports (par. 7).
II. Habitat destruction and human intrusion is the second, after poaching, factor contributing into decreasing of cats population.
The forest is an essential habitat for most big cats. Rampant illegal and legal logging, agricultural expansion, and fires lead to forest shrinking and destruction. For example, once ranging from the Caspian Sea to the Russian Far North, the tiger now exists in only 7 percent of its historical range (Tiger(2), par.1). Asiatic lions were once found throughout Asia, and as far West as Greece, but they are now on the verge of extinction, with only about 300 living in the dry teak Gir Forest in northwestern India (Lion, par 1). Leopards are highly adaptable cats, and all nine subspecies of leopard were once common throughout most of Africa and Asia. Now, you already know that the Amur leopard is considered the world’s rarest cat and just 30 of them are left in the wild.
Animals need interconnected forest habitat to prevent inbreeding; however, as you see on the leopard distribution map, the majority of remaining habitat is identified as severely fragmented. It is the same with tiger. If you take a look on the map of India you will notice that the area is separated into small pieces, each of them in turn separated into even smaller pieces. Connection between is highly difficult or impossible to create due to human dwelling, roads, and infrastructure. Why is preventing the inbreeding important? Among 30 left Amur Leopards are 10 to 15 females. Leopards caught by ecologist for veterinary examination all suffered significant heart murmurs, which experts fear point at genetic disorders rooted in inbreeding. The results of inbreeding are not only genetic and heath problems. The appearance could change too (tiger-freak). Such animals are doomed to die in the wild.
Humans create an immense disturbance to wildlife. People inhabit all wildlife reservations all over the world. All animals are constantly terrified by humans and get extremely stressed and aggressive by encounters. Such human activities such as wood cutting, livestock breeding, occur constantly in all wildlife resorts in India. Moreover, in order to create more lands for agricultural activity people initiate fires killing all live creatures including helpless baby animals (Dattatri, video). Additional thereat is created by built highways inside of wildlife reserves and roads. According to Indian ecologists, 18% of all animals killed on the roads and highways inside wildlife reserves are mammals, including rear leopard (Baskaran, par. 1). In addition, the death rate from snares is very high. At Jan. 31, 2012 group of volunteers working in northeast China have cleared 162 illegal wire snares, installed by locals in order to catch animals like rabbits and roe deer, in an ongoing effort to protect the nation's remaining population of critically endangered Amur tigers (Volunteers clear tiger snares in China, par1). There could be 162 dead tigers!
Mass tourism is an actual issue for poor countries of Africa. For example tourism is a leading economic activity in Kenya, being the third largest foreign exchange earner after tea and horticulture (Ikiara, p. 1). In the report, elaborated by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, the main impacts of tourism on wildlife are disruption of their normal behavior, which affects their feeding and breeding patterns. For example, cheetahs and lions have been found to hunt less when surrounded
by more than six vehicles (p. 21). However, in the most popular wildlife parks hundreds of vehicles with tourists are registered daily. Some hotels and lodges are sited near watering holes and breeding grounds, a factor that has driven animals away (p. 37). As a result, it is rare these days to see cheetahs or lions in Nairobi National Park, or leopards in Lake Nakuru National Park, which are attractions with high visitation rates (p. 39).
III. Decreasing number of prey animals. Animals struggle for survival with burgeoning human populations competing for similar resources (Chapron, par.1). The Indian conservationist Shekar Dattatri says: “Today most forests in Asia no longer have tiger because local people have killed all the pray animals. The poaching prey animals has direct impact on tigers, because for every fifty deers killed by hunters, there is room for one less tiger on Earth” (Dattatri, video).
When big cats are left without sources of food, they start to prey on livestock as an easy source of food, causing problems with ranchers who moving into cat territories. A vivid example of the war big cats vs farmers is the cheetah in Africa. Farmers who lose their livestock often put poison into dead bodies killed by cats. When a cat returns back to eat, it dies a long agonizing death. Persecution by humans is one of the major cause why the population of cheetahs in Africa was halved in a 10-year period (during the 1980s), leaving fewer than 2,500 in the wild (Marker, par. 4).
In conclusion, I want to ask: “Is there future for big cats, one of the most charismatic species in the world, or they are doomed to slowly, or some of them fast, extinction? Is there room for both humans and cats living and flourishing at the same land?” The answer is “Yes.” Hundreds of wildlife conservation organizations have been established over past thirty years targeting at the preservation of wildlife and, particularly, big cats. With adequate protection and support from government and society there still possibility to rectify what we have done. Without public pressure big businesses in chase of
profit will destroy the future not only for animals but for us too. Each of us can contribute in preservation of iconic creatures like speaking up when you see tiger cubs at the sideshow or signing a petition against the private possession of exotic animals. And never lose hope that they will live together with us on our beautiful planet.
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