Thursday, May 31, 2007

OPINION: Tiger's demise is symptom of "impending ecological disaster"

31 May, 2007 - 0000 hrs IST

This is a classic example of the [Indian] government missing the wood for the trees. The decline in tiger count is worrisome.

It is worrisome, not because the Big Cat is facing extinction but because the fall in the number of tigers is an indication of impending ecological disaster.

The tiger is at the top of the food chain and its population reflects the health of our forests. If the tiger is disappearing, it is mainly because the ecosystem it is part of is under threat.

The solution to the catastrophe is not to farm the tiger, as is being suggested in circles such as the ministry of environment and forests, but to address the threat to the animal's habitat. Tiger farms in China have reportedly bred over 4,000 tigers.

As in the case of other statistics that emanate from China, this one too should be taken with a pinch of salt. That apart, the approach of the Chinese to the tiger is essentially utili- tarian and aimed at addressing the needs of the local demand for tiger body parts used in traditional medicine and skins.

Tiger is merely an economic entity for the Chinese. Its existence is not understood from an ecological perspective that values the tiger as part of an ecosystem that includes trees, animals, water sources, and even humans.

Conservation activists have also pointed out that tiger farms are an expensive affair; one estimate puts $10,000 as the cost to breed a tiger in a farm.

Needless to say, the farm tiger is unlikely to be treated on par with the tiger of the forest.

Another approach is to sentimentalise the tiger; do we not owe it to our children the pleasure of watching the big beautiful cat? But a tiger is not just eye candy.

If taken out of the ecological context, it has no more significance than any other animal.

To understand the threat to the tiger one has to see it as the symptom of a larger ecological crisis which, if not addressed immediately, will threaten the existence of all species including humans

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/ VIEW_Government_to_consider_special_farms_to_ breed_tigers/articleshow/2087662.cms

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