It is easy enough for us to respond to 'save an animal' campaigns. We are rightly concerned about endangered species and animals being needlessly hunted and killed for gratification. You can adopt a tiger for just £3 a month with the WWF. You get a cuddly toy, regular updates and a certificate. But it isn't just about saving a cuddly and muched loved animal species. It is a vital part of building resilience in our ecosystems.
Save a Tiger is a successful campaign. It sets an object, a time, and an imperative, to double the number of tigers by 2022. The call to action is intense. It appeals to our hearts as well as our minds and to the imperative to act.
There are now estimated to be 3, 900 wild tigers globally. There are more tigers in captivity in the USA than there are in the wild. But this isn't merely about the protection of a species. It is about saving our planet.
The target to double the number of tigers wasn't plucked from thin air. The objective to double the number of Tigers by 2022 was set at an intergovernmental Tiger summit held in Russia in 2010.
Since then, there have been signs of success. The numbers estimated has risen from 3,200 in 2010 to the current estimate of 3,900. But we don't know if this results from more rigorous monitoring or a real increase in the number of tigers. Let's hope it is real, but better data leads to better conservation.
The Tiger is at the top of the food chain. Increasing numbers of wild tigers indicate resilience in ecosystems. Tigers help maintain the population of herbivores like Deers, Wild Buffaloes, Antelopes and Omnivores like Boars in the jungle. The tiger has been referred to as an 'umbrella species'. Its conservation is part of sustaining and protecting an entire ecosystem.
Tigers are a great indicator of resilience because they occupy a range of habitats such as mangrove swamps, highlands, plains, rainforests, arid or semi‐arid areas and mountainous regions. Protecting tigers doesn't mean erecting a cordon sanitaire, it requires sustainable land use. Human land use can have a more devestaging effect on tiger numbers than can hunters shooting them. This is why sustainable forestry is a vital ingredient to tiger protection. But conflict with humans can have a major impact. As our land use encroaches further into their range, so tiger numbers will dwindle.
But the tiger offers hope. Adopting tigers is about more than saving a species. It is about protecting habitats and building ecological resilience. The tiger is not just a symbol of how much we love animals. It is a symbol of what we can do to make a better world.