Friday, February 26, 2010

Save the Tiger

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

That the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What the grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

~ William Blake (1757 - 1827) ~

I am not sure Blake saw a real tiger in his lifetime. Even those who work tirelessly to save them from extinction today hardly get a glimpse of them, save for the occasional tracks they spot in Tiger Reserves. Perhaps back in the 1700s, tigers roamed more freely and had closer brushes with humans.

Just 100 years ago, there were close to 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today, that number hovers around 3,200. And if nothing is done to protect them, it's highly possible tigers will become extinct before the next Lunar Year of the Tiger, 2022.

What Michael Baltzer, Leader of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Tiger Network Initiative told me shocked me. After all, the tiger is the biggest of all cats and top of the food chain. What could possibly threaten them to extinction?

"Their habitat has shrunk to 7% of what it used to be," explains Michael. "In that way, it has brought man and animal really close, causing a lot of tension. It has led to many tigers being killed."

But more so, Michael confirms what I've long suspected. It's always man's greed, isn't it? That diminishes our precious wildlife. It happened with sharks, and it's happening with many other animals poached for their body parts.

"The irony is that because the tiger is associated with power and strength, that has led to its downfall," Michael says. "They are hunted for their body parts for folklore medicinal reasons. People, especially the Chinese, believe that if they eat tiger parts they will be strong -- even though TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) associations have issued countless messages denying that. It's an uphill task educating them and changing mindsets."

The Tiger Man: Michael Baltzer, head of WWF's global tiger conservation efforts, shares the causest close to his heart.

Michael has worked tirelessly for many years saving the tiger across various continents. In 1999 - 2004, he joined WWF and was based in Vietnam, working to protect the tigers there, as well as in Cambodia and Laos. In 2004, he was seconded from Vietnam to Vienna to be Director of WWF's programme in Eastern Europe. But even before joining WWF, he was already involved in tiger conservation efforts in Africa & Southeast Asia.

The Tiger Network Initiative has been around since WWF was founded, but efforts have been stepped up these past 2 years. This year being the Lunar Year of the Tiger, a global initiative has recently been launched. Named the Tx2 Campaign, the initiative hopes to double the number of tigers by the next Year of the Tiger 2022.

And we can all get involved in several ways: By not buying tiger parts. We all know that "once the buying stops, the killing will too". It applies to sharks & sharksfin too.

We can also support the work of the World Wildlife Fund by joining them as a member, and perhaps if we are parents, involving our children as well. Nothing beats starting them from young!

Michael Baltzer is giving a talk about tiger conservation this Sunday, and if you are free in the afternoon, I strongly encourage you to go down, meet him, hear him, and ask him questions. He will convince you (with his passion) that you and I need to be involved.

The Realities for the Wild Tiger Today
Sun, 28 Feb
3pm - 4pm
National Geographic Store
VivoCity, #01-19
Admission FREE!

No comments: