Once there were 100,000 or more wild tigers in Asia. Today there may be as few as 3,200.
Much of the decline can be linked to a belief among the Chinese that tiger bones and organs have medicinal benefits. This made tiger poaching a very profitable business. It also led to the establishment of tiger factory farms in China, somewhat like the factory farms so prevalent in the United States for the meat we eat.
In this excellent video, the World Wildlife Fund tells the story of why the tiger populations became so endangered and the horrors of Chinese tiger farms.
China banned the sale of tiger parts in 1993, but this did not stop the farmers. They just stored the frozen carcasses while breeding more tigers.
Recently, an effort was made to again legalize these farms, arguing that the tiger products would undersell the products of the poachers. The WWF points out that this didn’t work with elephant tusks and asks why would tigers that have to be caged and fed, be cheaper than those who can be obtained for the price of a bullet?
Read more about the WWF 2010 Year of the Tiger initiative and the opportunity to even ‘adopt’ a tiger.
Photo credit: catlovers