Elephants, tigers and rhinoceroses are the some of the key animals in the Asia food web. So what happens when one of these animals disappears altogether?
An April 21 Conservation Lecture Series on tigers sought to address this concern through discussions about problems the tiger populations face in the wild. The lecture also explored what has been done to protect them and what students can do to help.
Dr. Alan Shoemaker ‘67, Chair of the AZA Mammal Standards Task Force and Furman alum, opened the lecture by asking the audience of about 100 students crowded into Watkins Room, “How many of you think tigers live in Africa?” A few students raise their hands. “All tigers actually live in Asia, but that’s what I’m here for, to debunk the myths about tigers and to talk about conservation.”
Shoemaker centered the lecture on problems wild tigers are facing including diminishing food supply due to overhunting and the increase in the demand for tiger parts for medicinal purposes. “A few times a year there is a big bust in Asia where investigators find various hides, bones, feet and other valuable parts of endangered species.” Shoemaker also commented on the illegal trapping that is happening mainly in poorer countries that aren’t financially stable. “Snares and traps are non-selective weapons; they trap anything and everything that crosses their path.”
Though East Asia may be an ocean away, tiger conservation and education is still an important topic in the United States. Shoemaker discussed the problems of the lack of education about the species, which in some cases, has led to black market tiger sales as pets. “They’re cute when they’re little but when they grow up, they become big problems” Shoemaker warned.
It is estimated that there are five to ten thousand privately owned tigers in the United States. Tigers that are purchased as house pets often end up in crowded conservation centers since zoos are often wary to accept pet tigers due to their lack of medical history. Shoemaker emphasized that education about tigers both domestically and abroad is important in saving the species.
Taylor Tench, President of Tigers for Tigers at Clemson Univeristy, a student run organization that promotes awareness of the species, provided a student perspective on conservation. The organization plans trips to zoos to see conservation in action, participates in teaching programs at local elementary schools, and lobbies lawmakers about policy making that will help protect these species.
Tench encouraged students to become involved in the cause domestically by contacting their senators and encouraging them to support bills that will put a stop to illegal ownership. “A lot of people still don’t know that this species is in danger and so it’s even more important that we translate this enthusiasm of tiger conservation to them.”
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)