English 1200 Online Thesis Paper Draft
November 7th, 2013
Many people are unaware of how rapidly the big cat populations are decreasing. If the crisis of depleting tiger, lion, and cheetah populations was made more public then more action would be taken to reverse the tragedy. It is also not typically in the news or media when a conservationist/volunteer is murdered by poachers. Illegal animal trade is also one of the largest black market industries in the world alongside drugs and sex trafficking. This paper will argue that more can be done to save these majestic creatures, specifically using Dr. Marker's methods to prevent farmers and natives from killing these cats. Also, I will discuss what needs to be done briefly from a law perspective to help these cats as well; such as allowing more conservationists to carry weapons.
One issue with people not knowing how quickly tiger, cheetah, and lion populations are decreasing is that not enough people are taking action. Elizabeth O’Heill wrote her article “TIGERS Worth More Dead than Alive” as a way to communicate to regular people, rather than conservationists alone, to stress the importance of saving the tigers. She states that, in an Animal Planet survey of 50,000 viewers in 73 countries, 20% of people consider the tiger the world’s favorite animal. The most powerful statement in her articles is,
“Between 1999 and 2004, China alone seized 80 tiger skins arid 31 skeletons, and it is safe to assume that this represents a fraction of animals actually slaughtered and trafficked during that period. Rumored to have an astonishing range of properties, from anti-convulsive effects (tiger eyes) to enhancing sexual prowess (tiger penis soup), tiger products in particular demand today include plasters (externally applied poultices containing ground tiger bone and herbs, believed to provide relief from pain, such as that caused by arthritis), tiger bone wine (the product of steeping skeletons in alcohol for an extended period, believed to treat illness and improve sexual capacity), and skin for adornment and home décor.”
Peter Knight also speaks about his view of poaching tigers in the video "Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series - Tigers (Video 3). Director Peter Knight focuses on the beauty of the tiger and how it is being reduced to household items like rugs. Populations have fallen to around 3,200. Three subspecies of tigers have already disappeared, and action needs to be taken to protect other subspecies.
Knight states, as many other conservationists have, that the tiger is worth more dead than alive to natives who believe the skin has magical properties, such as the whiskers and tiger bones having old beliefs of medicinal uses. He states that Tiger is a rare meat in Vietnam while Americans buy skins and such of endangered animals overseas, and how the pelt is highly desired in Tibet. This relates back to the main point that if more people were aware of how quickly tiger population were decreasing they might be less inclined to purchase the illegal “goods.” Knight mentions in his video that people from the United States especially travel to countries where these items are sold and purchase them, unaware of the horrors that have resulted from these black markets. He concludes his video by reminding viewers that the issue requires attention of the government and people all over. The issue is that governments do not see endangered animals as an urgent matter, and WWF is encouraging people to speak up for these animals.
The safety of those who do fight for these endangered wildlife creatures is not always guaranteed, though. In another video directed by Peter Knight, "Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series - Rangers (Video 5),” Knight stresses the dangers that rangers face on a daily basis in the field. He states that every four days, a wildlife ranger is killed in the line of duty. In this video Director Peter Knight emphasizes the dangers of being in the front-line of conservation.
This video is the fifth video in a series by World Wildlife Fund used to educated people on the dangers of wildlife crime to not just animals, but to humans as well. It explains in detail multiple stories of individuals being beaten, tortured, and often killed by poachers. These conservationists put their lives in danger every day and they are often unarmed. Sadly, these incidents often go unpublished and the public remains unaware of what is occurring.
Furthermore, how do conservationists decide where funding goes to take care of the many endangered animals? In her article "Which Species Will Live," Michelle Nijhuis speaks about the difficult issue of deciding which species of animals deserve conservation attention and which ones are not that important to the ecosystems and are basically okay to lose. It was written in the winter of 2008 as the Wildlife Conservation Society as groups of experts met in small conference rooms in New York City, southwestern Montana, and Buenos Aires. Their goal was to aid the Wildlife Conservation Society in deciding which species to use their limited funding on.
These decisions were made by a speaker explaining each animal and what its purpose was to the ecosystem it lived in. Then, experts were asked to hold up a green sign, a yellow one, or red. Based on how many green signs were held up, that mammal or bird was likely to receive some aid. However, many animals were not seen as important to the ecosystems and were, therefore; thought to be “losable.”
Conservation groups can no longer afford to protect as many animals and plants as they have in the past, so they are turning to new systems of “triage” to determine which species to save and which to leave to die. “Function-first” forms of triage favor species that serve a specific purpose in nature, such as White Bark pines, which provide food for grizzly bears. “Evolution-first” approach seeks to reserve genetic diversity. For example, the two-humped Bactrian camel and the Chinese giant salamander which can help all of the world's species survive and adapt.
The article was written by Michelle Nijhuis. She is a Colorado-based columnist who writes about science and the environment for many publications. She researched approaches for protecting critically endangered species as a 2011 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow. She interviewed John Nagle, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame who has written many works about environmental issues. He makes a great point saying, “We can prevent extinction; we've demonstrated that, but knowing that extinction was something we could have stopped and chose not to -- I think that's where people kind of gulp and don't want to go down that road.”
As a leading runner for “world’s favorite animal” the lion has always had a piece of the conservationist funding, however the cheetah has not always had the same luck. In her video "What If We Lost the Cheetah." Dr. Laurie Marker speaks about her experience moving to Winston Oregon to open a winery. She stopped at a Wildlife Safari that she happened to see on a billboard and took up a job there. She worked there for 16 years, and dedicated that time to caring for cheetahs. She became an “expert” on cheetahs and developed one of the most successful cheetah breeding centers having helped develop the U.S. and international captive program.
Dr. Laurie Marker is founder and now the executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Having worked with cheetahs since 1974, Dr. Marker set up the not-for-profit Fund in 1990 and moved to Namibia to develop a permanent Conservation Research Centre for the wild cheetah. She brought a cheetah she had hand raised in Oregon to Namibia to see how the cheetah could adapt to the wild.
Upon moving to Namibia she found that farmers were hunting and killing large numbers of cheetahs. She found that the farmers were very poor and considered the cheetah as “vermin” because they attacked the livestock such as sheep. In order to save the cheetah population, Dr. Marker educated local farmers on why the ecosystem in Namibia needs cheetahs. Rather than killing cheetahs, Dr. Laurie Marker breeds Anatolian Sheperds or Cangle dogs to give to Namibian farmers. They are used to protect livestock and have reduced livestock loss by 80-100%.
Dr. Marker is a perfect example of what knowledge can do. She was unaware of the cheetah’s situation when she moved to Oregon, yet she has become one of the most influential people in conserving big cat populations. This relates back to the main point that if more people were aware of the situation these animals face, they would be more inclined to do something to help. Although using Cangle dogs will not prevent poachers from attacking lion, tiger, or cheetahs, Dr. Marker has taught natives and farmers about the importance of these cats to the ecosystem.
What can other influential people do to help these beautiful big cats, though? Elizabeth O’Heill writes in her article, “TIGERS Worth More Dead than Alive” that leaders like late Indira Gandhi have made an effort to curve poaching in surrounding areas. However, conservation attempts are being hindered by inefficient government action. One issue is the estimates of tiger populations are not exact. Therefore when tigers are poached it is not easy to see until a large amount is killed and a new population estimate is determined. Even then, authority is not sure of the original estimate and cannot specify the number of tigers killed.
An example of the difficulties in counting populations of these animals comes from M. Monirul H. Khan’s article “Population and Prey of the Bengal Tiger Panthera Tigris Tigris.” Khan speaks about how the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India is the world’s largest tidal mangrove forest and is one of the two largest tiger conservation regions in the world. However, while attempting to estimate tiger populations, in a period of 200 days, 134 people were seen on camera walking through these mangroves whereas only 7 Bengal tigers were seen. This is an issue because when the numbers of these tigers decrease, it is difficult to prove because it is difficult to estimate the number of tigers present in the region to begin with.
In conclusion, people should be made more aware of the decreasing big cats population. This would cause a ripple effect as less people chose to purchase the illegal parts of these animals, more influential people speak out against poaching, and more farmers are taught how Cangle dogs can be more effective than killing cheetahs. Tracking accurate populations of these cats will also be made useful when proving that the numbers are decreasing.
Khan, M. Monirul H. "Population And Prey Of The Bengal Tiger Panthera Tigris Tigris (Linnaeus, 1758) (Carnivora: Felidae) In The Sundarbans, Bangladesh." Journal Of Threatened Taxa 4.2 (2012): 2370-2380. Environment Complete. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Knights, Peter, dir. "Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series - Tigers (Video 3) | WWF." YOUTUBE. World Wildlife Fund, 15 Sep 2013. web. 28 Oct 2013. .
Knights, Peter, dir. "Stop Wildlife Crime: The Series - Rangers (Video 5) | WWF ." YOUTUBE. World Wildlife Fund, 29 Sep 2013. web. 28 Oct 2013. .
Knight, Peter, dir. “Stop Wildlife Crime: It’s Dead Serious (Video 1) WWF ." YOUTUBE. World Wildlife Fund, Sep 2013. web. 28 Oct 2013.
Marker, Dr. Laurie, auth. "What If We Lost The Cheetah." YOUTUBE. TEDxPortland, 02 June 2013. web. 28 Oct 2013. .
Nijhuis, Michelle. "Which Species Will Live." Scientific American 307.2 (2012): 74-79. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
O'Heill, Elizabeth. "TIGERS: Worth More Dead Than Alive." World Watch 21.4 (2008): 6. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.