Imagine Our World Without Tigers
Imagine Our World Without Tigers
Please Save the Date!
Every December, WVI takes part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge in order to raise essential funds to carry on our work.
This year, the focus is on protecting the health of wild tigers. The campaign runs from noon on 29th November to noon on 6th December.
Any donation made during that time will be match-funded to help us reach our overall target of £30,000.
Tigers are under threat. At the turn of the 20th century, wild tigers numbered around 100 000. Today there are thought to be no more than 4,500, and their historical range has been reduced by a drastic 95%. If wild tigers were people, there wouldn’t be enough of them left alive on the planet today to fill the seats of London’s Royal Albert Hall.
But it’s not all bad news. Thanks to concerted conservation efforts, some tiger populations are showing tentative signs of recovery, with Nepal leading the way with an impressive tripling of tiger numbers in the last decade. However, others, like the 400 Sumatran tigers existing in small fragmented pockets of forest across the island, remain in decline, edging ever closer to extinction. None of them are out of the woods.
As legendary apex predators, tigers are an ultimate indicator of ecosystem health. By protecting the tiger, we don’t just protect a cultural icon. Protecting the landscapes tigers need to thrive – from open grasslands and snow covered forest to coastal swamps – protects biodiversity. Greater biodiversity makes ecosystems more resilient to the effects of climate change – fires, winds, drought, flooding and landslides. A healthy ecosystem means the people who live in those areas are safer. At a regional level, protecting tiger habitat contributes towards sustainable water supplies, food security and economic opportunities. On a global level, the conservation of the tiger can boost carbon sequestration, help mitigate climate change and reduce the risk of zoonotic disease.
Wild Tiger Health
It is only recently that disease – in the sense of all forms of ill health – has been recognised as an important driver of extinction, alongside more familiar threats like poaching, habitat loss and conflict with humans. WVI was founded in 2004 in response to the recognition that conservation initiatives on the ground often cannot access vital veterinary expertise that can play a crucial role in saving species.
Tigers have been a focus of WVI’s work from the beginning; in many tiger range states, there are no formal training opportunities for wildlife health professionals. The result Is that vets and biologists working on the conservation frontline have to learn on the job, often without anyone to support or guide them. The fact that local vets are rarely trained in wildlife medicine is frequently overlooked by traditional conservation partners and organisations.
The reality is that poaching, habitat loss, conflict with humans and disease all challenge the health of wild tigers. WVI builds in-country capacity to respond to these threats by training vets, biologists and village response teams how to immobilise tigers which may have been caught in humane research traps, illegal poachers’ snares or cornered by terrified villagers. WVI has a long record of providing technical assistance in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Russia, as well as remote advice to many other tiger range states.
As humans encroach more on tiger territory, the risk of injury from wire snares (often set to trap smaller animals) and poachers’ bullets increases, as do less visible threats like viruses and bacterial infections. When numbers of an endangered animal are critically low, the survival of every single individual is important to saving the species. WVI trains local vets in best rehabilitation practices for sick or injured tigers, including anaesthetic and clinical techniques. This month, Dr Amir Sadaula, chief vet at Nepal’s only wildlife hospital, is undertaking two weeks CPD training in the UK through WVI. On his return, he will be able to share new techniques with local staff and together they will be able to make more effective use of the equipment available to them.
Infectious disease, and in particular canine distemper virus(CDV), is now recognised as a significant threat to tiger populations worldwide. Research from the Russian Far East has found that the presence ofCDV can increase the likelihood of extinction in small populations by as much as 65%. However, testing for the virus is not a simple matter. The infection moves through the body in different stages, meaning that results can vary depending on what you test, how you test it and when you collect your samples. WVI has helped establish in-country testing facilities for CDV in Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand, and supported training of wildlife professionals in the collection, labelling, storage and transportation of biomedical samples. Research is on-going into how CDV might best be mitigated; opportunistic vaccination of wild tigers that pass through rehabilitation centres is one of the options for the future.
How do we work?
WVI builds long term partnerships with well-regarded in-country conservation organisations, providing training, practical support and remote advice to build capacity for dealing with injured, sick and conflict animals, as well as assisting with the investigation of any disease threats.
How can you help?
Please save the date now for The Big Give Christmas Challenge.Every donation made between the 29th of November and the 6th of December will be match-funded and make double the difference to protecting wild tiger health.