July 29 marks the seventh International Tiger Day, a day celebrating and promoting protection and expansion of wild tiger habitat, and raising awareness for tiger conservation.
Tigers are the largest members of the cat family and one of Asia’s top predators, and they are officially listed as “endangered” by the IUCN Red List of threatened species, with a 95 percent reduction of the total population in just the last 100 years. The decline of such an important top predator can mean the decline of an entire ecosystem.
While there were once nine species of tiger, today there are just six: Sumatran, Siberian, Bengal, South China, Malayan, and Indochinese. Vietnam has only the Indochinese tiger, and it is believed that only 50 individuals remain in the wild in Vietnam.
The endangered status of tigers results from deforestation, human/tiger conflict, a decline in prey populations, and climate change. But, the main driver of the tiger’s population decline is poaching. Despite a 1987 ban on tiger trade, the illegal trade in tigers is estimated to be worth USD14 billion a year, amid a boom in demand from wealthy businessmen who see tiger skins and bones as a status symbol.
But, there is reason to be optimistic. Tigers received the highest level of CITES listing in 1987, and Ministerial level attention in 2010 (the Year of the Tiger) brought a range state commitment to double the global tiger population by 2022. Already 2016, the tiger population had risen to 3890 individuals, up from 3022 at the time of the first Ministerial Conference. But, we cannot rest here.
Vietnam is making a concerted effort to increase the country’s tiger population and fight the threats facing tigers, by working with local and international NGOs in creating public awareness campaigns designed towards reducing both the sale of and demand for tiger parts and products. The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Vietnam is working with the Government of Vietnam to raise awareness and strengthen law enforcement to combat this and other types of illegal wildlife trade.
The Secretariat of Hanoi Conference on Illegal wildlife trade (2016)