Panthera tigris tigris et Lynx pardinus

Posted on April 1, 2011

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The majestic Indian tiger

Con·ser·va·tion (noun): Preservation or restoration from loss, damage, or neglect

I read some great news from the conservation world this week that I thought I’d share with you, albeit slightly later than planned due to failed internet connection on my part! On Monday it was announced that numbers of the Indian tiger in the wild had increased by 20% in the last three years, from 1,411 to 1,706. It was also reported that numbers of the Iberian lynx in the wild had risen in the last ten years from 100 to 300. For some, the rise in numbers may seem small; some may even think, ‘so what?’ or ‘who cares?’

Here’s a little perspective: at the turn of the 20th Century, India had 100,000 tigers roaming in the wild and the country has since seen a 97% decline in this majestic animal. In the case of the lynx, they were numbered at 4,000 in 1960 and saw a catastrophic decline to 100 merely a decade ago, becoming the world’s most endangered cat. But as a result of strong political action, better monitoring techniques and higher public awareness, both animals are now beginning to make a slow recovery.

The Iberian lynx in the wild

While it’s easy to think of poaching as a problem of the past, it’s clear that the threat still looms large. The Congo for instance, has seen most of its wildlife exterminated through poaching. The reasons for the decline of the tiger and the lynx are reasonably straightforward: rising human populations and shrinking natural habitats. As a result, both animals often find themselves in human vs animal confrontations that normally only see one eventual outcome. The Indian tiger is often poached for its skin and for Chinese medicinal purposes; the lynx is often mistaken for a fox and shot by locals.

There is a fundamental lack of education and appreciation at play here.

Any increase in numbers must always be treated as positive, therefore. Especially when we put the statistics of their decline into perspective. Both announcements constitute great success stories for conservation and for the reintroduction of animals into the wild. And they offer us hope. That being said, the job is far from over; if anything, it is only just beginning.

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