Learn About Tigers and How You Can Help Tiger Conservation with Carole Baskin
One hundred years ago, there were estimated to be 100,000 tigers globally. Fifty years ago, there were less than 40,000. How many are there today? Less than 4000! Tigers are disappearing!
Where animals live is called their “habitat.” Tigers used to live across an enormous territory ranging from Siberia in Russia to the Middle East to the island countries of Southeast Asia. Today tigers are extinct in many of those areas – that means there are no more tigers there. Their habitat has shrunk by 95%! You can see a map showing the current habitat compared to where they lived and learn a lot more about tigers on this ecoregion map.
Why is the tiger population shrinking? The biggest reason is poaching. Poachers are people that hunt animals illegally. Tiger poachers kill tigers to make money selling their parts. Some want to buy tiger skins to make rugs or wall decorations, and others use tiger bones to make things like wine. In ancient times people believed that powders and potions made from various tiger parts were medicine. This is not true, but many people in some Asian cultures still believe this and will buy these products. Other people think displaying tiger products or serving tiger meat or tiger bone wine is a way to impress their guests. It is illegal to poach tigers and sell tiger products. Although some people break the law, having it be illegal limits the trade in tiger parts and helps save the tiger in the wild.
Tigers that we keep in cages in the United States are called “captive” tigers. Many of these tigers are not treated well in roadside zoos. Some greedy people make money by mistreating young tigers by charging people to pet the little cubs or take photos with them. Tiger cubs are adorable. It is natural to want to hold them but using cubs in this way is a miserable life for the cubs.
Some examples of mistreatment are:
- The young cubs are taken from their mothers as soon as they are born. This makes the mothers and the cubs very unhappy.
- When they try to play naturally using their tiny claws and teeth, roadside zoo workers often hit them to make them stop and be still.
- Often they are not given food or not allowed to sleep during these long hours of pictures and petting.
Tiger cubs can only be used for petting for a few months because they grow quickly and become too dangerous to handle and pet. They often spend the rest of their lives in tiny barren cages, sometimes in backyards. Living in a small enclosure is an unhappy life for these magnificent animals who belong out in the wild. You can watch an animated cartoon explaining more about cub petting and the challenges to the tiger both in the wild and in captivity below.
Some countries want to make selling tiger parts legal. This would quickly cause the tiger to go extinct in the wild. When the countries of the world meet to decide about this, the United States tries to lead the other countries to vote against legalizing this trade in tiger parts. But the countries who want to legalize the trade say the other countries should not listen to us because we don’t even know where our tigers discarded from cub petting are or how many end up in the illegal trade. They tell the other countries that they should not trust us or listen to us. The lack of trust hurts our ability to get the other nations to vote with us to keep the trade in tiger parts illegal and save the tiger from going extinct.
So, for the United States to be believed and convince other countries not to legalize the trade, we have to stop the cub petting and stop having tigers live in tiny cages in backyards.
How Can You Help Tigers?
Get active! There is a federal bill called the Big Cat Public Safety Act. What is the Big Cat Public Safety Act? This bill would end the cub petting and phase out having tigers in backyards. Bills have to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate to become law. You have one Congressperson in the House from your area and two Senators from your State. You are what is called a “constituent” because you live in the area they represent. They like hearing from constituents, particularly young constituents like you!
Ready To Help? Follow these steps!
1. Locate your federal legislators.
You can find out who your Representative and Senators are and their mailing address by going to Elected Official | USAGov.
2. Write Your Letter!
Make this fun for you and your legislators. Draw a picture to send with your letter, it could be a picture of a cub, maybe a tiger in the wild, or a tiger in a cage. Your short message could be asking to stop the mistreatment of tigers and help save the tiger in the wild by passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act (HR 263 / S 1210). You should include the bill number, (HR 263 / S 1210) to help them identify the bill you are supporting.
3. Send Your Letter!
Send your letter by mail. Since mail is kind of slow, in addition to mailing your letter you might ask one of your parents to take a photo or pdf of your letter to email, or even fax!
4. Email a copy to me!
If you email me a picture of your letter at [email protected], I will definitely email you back.
I hope you learned a lot about tigers today and that you will be one of my cool cats and kittens to help us save them! If you have any questions, please just send an email to me at [email protected].
Want more ways to help? Learn more about how to support laws to help big cats at www.catlaws.com.
About The Author:
Carole Baskin is the Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue, an accredited sanctuary in Tampa, FL. She is a leading figure in the battle to stop the mistreatment of big cats in captivity and avoid extinction in the wild.
Find more ways to get active with activism below!