（May 29, 2010 Beijing）A multi media exhibition “Plight of the Jungle King—Protect the Last Wild Tigers”, organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org) opened today at the National Zoological Museum of China. Chinese children sign a petition at the exhibition to call for the designation of a World Tiger Day, in this Year of the Tiger, to raise awareness about the plight of wild tigers.
A century ago, over 100,000 tigers roamed the vast and diverse land across the Asian continent. Today, fewer than 3200 tigers remain in the wild. Wild tigers—the Pride of Asia and a symbol of biodiversity—is fast marching towards extinction.
Habitat degradation and fragmentation, coupled with prey loss threaten the survival of tigers in the wild. Research shows that tiger habitat shrunk by 40% compared with the last Year of the Tiger, a mere twelve years ago. “Tigers represent biodiversity and the health of the ecosystem. Loss of wild tigers affects the environment shared by both people and animals.” Says Mr. LI Zhiyi, Director of Zoology Department, China’s Academy of Science. “2010 is the Year of Biodiversity. Saving wild tigers is protecting biodiversity.”
A more menacing threat to wild tigers is poaching stimulated by the trade of tiger pelts and bone. Historically tiger bone was used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Concerned over the decline of tigers in the wild due to poaching and trade, China ban the trade of tiger bone on May 29th, 1993. Subsequently, the government removed tiger bone from the official pharmacopeia and curriculum, and conducted public awareness campaigns to reduce demand. “The tiger trade ban effectively reduced the TCM demand for tiger bone and arrested the rampant trade that threatens wild tigers. China’s bold and exemplary action taken 17 years ago has been widely recognized as a contributing factor to the stabilization of some wild tiger populations in Asia.” Said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW’s Asia Regional Director.
However, ignoring the trade ban, private tiger farming businesses produce and promote products purported to contain tiger bone. Claiming the medicinal and tonic effects of tiger bone, the trade of these products confuses consumers and stimulates demand. “Trade of tiger parts from any source stimulates consumption and fuels poaching of wild tigers. Tiger trade threatens the survival of the few remaining tigers in the wild”. Gabriel warns.
Elementary school students dressed up as “tiger cubs” play out the evolutionary story of tigers on stage and call for the protection of wild tigers for theirs and future generations. They call on their fellow “tiger cubs” to sign a petition asking the UN to designate a World Tiger Day.
A folk art demonstration is staged as part of the exhibition to project tiger’s significance in Chinese culture. Folk artists hand craft tiger objects with common materials, delighting children and adult participants alike. Artist and ethicist Gao Wei summarizes, “Tiger plays an important role in the web of life, which has nurtured the Chinese culture for thousands of years. To continue our cultural heritage, we have to stop excessive exploitation of nature and respect the web of life. I believe every Chinese hope that wild tigers will continue to roam this earth in the next Year of the Tiger”.
“Saving wild tigers needs the collaboration of governments, NGOs and corporations.” Mr. Allen Fan, President of Asian Tigers China pledged support to wild tiger conservation on behalf of corporations. Asian Tigers, a moving and storage company with regional offices in Asia, has funded IFAW’s tiger conservation efforts across Asia.
The exhibition “Plight of the Jungle King—Protect the Last Wild Tigers” will run through October 8th, 2010.
Grace Ge Gabriel
Asia Regional Director
IFAW–A Better World for Animals and People