July 29 marks the sixth International Tiger Day, a day celebrating and promoting protection and expansion of wild tiger habitat, and raising awareness for tiger conservation.m
Tigers are the largest members of the cat family and one of Asia’s top predators. Tigers are officially listed as “endangered” by the IUCN Red List of threatened species, with 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. According to a survey by the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, 2012, natural tiger populations in Vietnam has less than 50 individuals.
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.
Vietnam is making a concerted effort to increase the country’s tiger population and fight the threats facing tigers in creating public awareness campaigns designed towards reducing both the sale of and demand for tiger parts and products. The Prime Minister has approved the National tiger conservation program for period 2014 to 2022. Vietnam is celebrating International Tiger Day with the launch of “I’m a Little Tiger”, a book aimed at teaching school children about the importance of tigers to Vietnamese cultural and history.
The “I’m a Little Tiger” book is an educational publication of a cooperation on demand reduction between Viet Nam CITES Management Authority and Humane Society International (HSI).