Thursday, 30 June 2011

Tigers Future at Our Hands

Comment on “The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival “ By John Vaillant

I am grateful to John Vaillant for going deep into the Tiger and producing a vivid portrait of this highly intelligent and emotionally rich predator, which, were we to put aside our arrogant assessment of our own uniqueness, is every bit as heart-rending and impressive as homo sapiens. In my eight years of rewilding the captive-born South China Tigers (the first generation of which came from Chinese zoos), I have observed every aspect of this large cat's emotions: love, affection, anger, frustration, hunger, sadness, fear, and gratitude. I identify with Mr. Valliant's comment on the tiger's analytical abilities, which changed, for example, Cathay's behaviour towards me - from fear and avoidance in the very beginning when she was first brought out of Chinese zoo, to one of trust and gratitude after she was released in a natural environment in South Africa. When she later became a mother, she even entrusted me to watch over her new born cubs when she took a break in the open air.

The recent reunion of 4 month-old tiger cub Huwaa with her mother Cathay, caused Cathay to produce a unprecedented heart-rending vocalization that I can only describe as choking in tears (if she has any) from being overcome with joy, and as if she was saying "where on earth have you been? I thought I had also lost you to a bird of prey!" (as her sibling from the previous litter). More details of their behaviour can be found in my photo documentary book, "Rewilded, Saving the South China Tiger".

The sad fate of Inspection Tiger as described by Mr. Valliant, also echoes the many other and often larger issues as I have encountered in tiger conservation since I entered it accidentally ten years ago as a result of an awakening - arising from passion for the tigers and all things wild. Sadly, despite the hundreds of millions spent on tiger conservation in India and Russia, there is little result to show, were we to measure it with the numbers of tigers left in the wild as recently acknowledged in a CITES conference. Solutions need to be found on many levels, and not least that of human poverty around these last tiger reserves. Further, how can large NGOs and governments be held accountable for the millions of donor dollars and tax payer money. Unless practical solutions can be found, not necessarily at the expense of traditional methodology, and the tigers' survival is REALLY at the centre of tiger conservation, the tiger's future does not look that bright.

Li Quan,
Founder, Save China's Tigers