The Year of the Tiger

Posted on
15 February 2010
Chris Howe reflects on his personal encounters with tigers:

Ask anyone what their most memorable experience is of going to the zoo, and I bet seeing the tigers will be close to the top of the list. There’s something about them that is quite mesmerising. That’s certainly my most recent experience of tigers, at Wellington Zoo. They look so sleek and friendly, you might mistake them for a larger version of your pet moggy, but it’s when you see them pounce on the meat the keeper throws them that you get a more realistic sense of their size and power. And as for their roar, well I’ll come back to that later.

Sadly, the zoo may soon be the only place you can see these majestic animals. It’s ironic and sad that as the Chinese Year of the Tiger kicks off around the world, the species itself is in dire trouble. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild, and WWF has just identified the top 10 places in the world where they are most in danger.

As always, there is hope. All 13 countries where tigers still live in the wild agreed recently to a target to double tiger numbers in the wild by the next year of the tiger, in 12 years time. They’ll be meeting in Russia in September to hammer out the details of how that will be achieved.

I hope they succeed, or my personal experience of tigers in the wild may be one that’s never repeated. Back in 1991 I was lucky enough to go to Berbak Wildlife Reserve in Sumatra. I was of course hoping to see a tiger, as the reserve is world famous for them. It took eight hours in a boat to get into the reserve. We spent the night in small hut raised off the forest floor, and that was when I heard the deep roar of a tiger miles away in the forest. That was as close as I got, and it was quite close enough.

Since then I’ve always had a deep personal interest in tigers and their conservation, and I believe a world without tigers in the wild would be a poorer world for everyone. You can help by supporting WWF and adding your voice to the campaign to save the tiger.



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