(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
A few days ago I was worried that tigers might be becoming extinct, so I wrote an essay about it. The idea that tigers were becoming extinct was making me ill: it brought on feelings of anger, sadness, despair, grief, longing. I found myself thinking about it. Constantly.
As if all of that weren’t enough, I then found this in the New York Times:
The crowd-pleasing Year of the Tiger, which begins Sunday, could be a lousy year for the estimated 3,200 tigers that still roam the world’s diminishing forests.
With as few as 20 in the wild in China, the country’s tigers are a few gun blasts away from extinction, and in India poachers are making quick work of the tiger population, the world’s largest. The number there, around 1,400, is about half that of a decade ago and a fraction of the 100,000 that roamed the subcontinent in the early 20th century.
Shrinking habitat remains a daunting challenge, but conservationists say the biggest threat to Asia’s largest predator is the Chinese appetite for tiger parts. Despite a government ban on the trade since 1993, there is a robust market for tiger bones, traditionally prized for their healing and aphrodisiac qualities, and tiger skins, which have become cherished trophies among China’s nouveau riche.
With pelts selling for $20,000 and a single paw worth as much as $1,000, the value of a dead tiger has never been higher, say those who investigate the trade. Last month the Indian government announced a surge in killings of tigers by poachers, with 88 found dead in 2009, double the previous year. Because figures are based on carcasses found on reserves or tiger parts seized at border crossings, conservationists say the true number is far higher.
And now as I think about the end of tigers, I feel wave after wave of anger, sadness, despair, grief, longing.
And all of those feelings are amplified by response to this news. Shrugging, yes. Mumbling, yes. But mostly, the response is silence. Crickets. And more and more crickets. You can look at the comments here and here. There are possibilities other than mass apathy: maybe my writing wasn’t very good and it didn’t elicit any response, maybe the situation is just completely overwhelming, and nobody knows what to do. Maybe it’s that nobody read the essay, or the comments left in Open Threads pointing to it. There are I suppose a lot of other possibilities.
But to me it means that shortly, very shortly tigers will be living solely in captivity on this planet. And after that, they will slowly become extinct. Because they don’t belong in cages, walking in circles, going slowly and inevitably insane.
All I can do is point to these reports and ask, “Are we as humans going to let this happen?” And when I do that, what will I hear as a response?