Crouching tiger, hidden species? Siberian creatures welcome in the Year of the Tiger as China worries about their extinction
The sight of tigers in the wild in China is becoming increasingly rare, but there are hundreds in zoos around the country.So as the country came to a standstill this weekend to celebrate Chinese New Year, and see in the Year of the Tiger, it seemed only natural to use several Siberian tigers to welcome visitors to a zoo in Fuzhou in southeast China’s Fujian province.However, the tigers’ poses were far from natural, as they were cruelly forced into a series of poses as they made their greeting.Sitting on their hind legs with their paws in the air, the tigers were made to hold the poses for a lengthy period of time as visitors entered the zoo.
The sight was made even more poignant by news that these majestic creatures are likely to soon be extinct in the country.
Many wildlife species are endangered, but it is now thought that the Wild Tiger is one of the most critically endangered of all.
In the 20th century three of the eight sub-species of tiger became extinct – the Balinese in 1937, the Caspian in the 1950s and most recently the Javan in the 1980s.The five remaining sub-species, the Siberian, the Bengal, the Sumatran, the Indo-Chinese and the South China tiger, are all critically endangered.
China have now introduced changes to their animal welfare legislation and tightened their laws on the illegal hunting, trapping and farming of wild tigers.Former Indian hunter, now conservationist, Billy Arjan Singh said: ‘The eyes of the tiger are the brightest of any animal on earth.’They blaze back the ambient light with awe-inspiring intensity. It would be a tragedy, and a terrible dereliction of duty, if we allowed that magical fire to burn out.’The critical decline of the wild tiger is largely down to the ancient belief that certain parts of the tiger can be used to cure specific ailments.
Due to this, an international population of tigers of 100,000 in 1900 is now thought to have dwindled to around just 3,500 left in the wild.There are several tiger conservation and protection programs already in place working to save this species from extinction.However, Phil Davis, of conservation group Tiger Awareness, said: ‘It would be a sad day if the only place one could see a tiger is in a zoo.’