Campaigners Launch ‘Leave me Alone’ to Protect Bengal Tigers

The fight to protect India's dwindling Bengal tiger population received a handy leg up recently with the introduction of the 'Leave Me Alone' campaign, a joint initiative of Sanctuary Asia and Facebook group Save the Tiger.

Author RESET , 08.07.13

The fight to protect India’s dwindling Bengal tiger population received a handy leg up recently with the introduction of the ‘Leave Me Alone’ campaign, a joint initiative of Sanctuary Asia and Facebook group Save the Tiger. The aim of the campaign is to highlight the challenges facing India’s tigers, e.g., poachers, destruction of habitats, environmental changes and what can be done to protect them.

The team also plans to highlight the role the tiger has to play in monitoring India’s biodiversity consequentially demonstrating the key role tigers play in balancing the ecosystem. As a predator at the top of the food chain, tigers help keep deer, antelope, wild boar and other animals in check. Without tigers, the population of these species would expand. As a result the vegetation, which is the main food source of these lower-rung food chain occupiers, would be ravaged. This in turn would have a cascading effect on smaller animals and insects.

Campaigners argue that if provided with enough space, isolation from human activity, and protection from poaching and habitat destruction, the tiger will be able to thrive as will the ecosystems they call home. Bittu Sahgal, founder of Sanctuary Asia, said in a recent press release, “Over the past five decades, thousands of tiger experts have commented on what we need to do to save the tiger, but the one expert opinion we seem not to have taken is that of the tiger itself. The tiger is saying to us, ‘Leave me alone’.”

The campaign was launched on Global Tiger Day which falls on 29 July. Wildlife conservation groups and government officials came together to highlight the problem of tiger poaching and the illegal animal trade. These illegal operations have been devastating the tiger population for decades. Today it is estimated that there are only 1,800 wild tigers left in India. This is a massive drop from the estimated 45,000 tigers in the wild in 1900. Many argue that endemic poaching and habitat destruction have been the main culprits.

The destination for many of the tigers is China and other East Asian countries where the bones and body parts are important for medicines. It is believed that the body parts can be used to cure a number of ailments and illnesses. In particular tiger bone is believed to treat rheumatism, arthritis and weakness; eyeballs for epilepsy and malaria and the tail for skin diseases. Even the whiskers are believed to have a medicinal use as they are commonly used to alleviate toothache. These practices go back hundreds of years and have become part of Chinese culture. A growing industry of illegal tiger farming has developed in China to satisfy customer demand. However, tiger farming has simply not provided enough to satisfy the growing affluent population and tiger poaching is used to supplement this method.

Work done in neighbouring Nepal shows that a commitment to saving the animals can help reverse the trend. The government began to take the issue seriously and started working with conservation groups and local communities, a Wildlife Crime Control Bureau was created to monitor the illegal animal trade and the army and police have since been employed to protect national parks through rigourous patrols. The results have been extremely positive: the population of Royal tigers has risen from 121 in 2009 to 198 in 2013, a rise of 63 percent which the team behind ‘Leave me Alone’ wants to emulate. Creator of Save the Tiger Facebook page Raj Krishnani, said recently, “The tiger is our national animal, our pride. We must not lose it to poaching and habitat loss. When the people of a nation realise the importance of a problem, they roar together. That is what I am doing, in partnership with Sanctuary Asia, in echoing the tiger’s call to ‘Leave me alone’. We can and we will save the tiger.”

To help protect the tigers, the ‘Leave Me Alone’ team has launched a petition addressed to India’s Prime Minister demanding that the government increase its efforts to protect tigers and their habitats. They already have thousands of signatures but more are required. Head over now to sign.

Author: Stephen Walsh/ RESET Editorial

Could Texting Prevent Elephant Raids and Save Lives?

An elephant attack might sound completely out of character for an animal often perceived to be a friendly docile giant; however this is the stuff of nightmares for many people living on forest fringes in India.

How you can contribute to biodiversity preservation in your own back yard

When we speak of biodiversity conservation, discussions around the central roles and responsibilities of global actors and governments in preserving biodiversity on our planet and other similar meta-level discussions come to mind. However, as individuals, we can also play a meaningful role in contributing to the preservation of our diverse ecosystem – even when we live in a big city.