Happy International Tiger Day! We’re Celebrating With Pretty Tigers and Tiger’s Eye

It’s International Tiger Day! The fifth annual, in fact – July 29th was designated as a day to bring attention to tiger conservation by the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit back in 2010. Tigers are in serious need of help: we’ve lost 97% or more of our wild tigers in the last century. There may be as few as 3,000 left in the wild. They’re in the worst shape of any of the big cats. Which is sad, because tigers are awesome!

I mean, just look at the beautiful Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium:

Image shows a mama tiger lying down while her cub plays behind a log behind her.
Sumatran tiger and cub. D’aw!

It would suck mightily if the only place they remained alive was in zoos. Unfortunately, there are a lot of threats to their survival. Habitat loss is, of course, one of the big ones, but “traditional” Chinese and Asian medicine is the absolute worst. A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that dead tiger bits will solve their medical issues. We skeptics know it’s all bullshit. The more people we can convince to give up on this woo altogether, or at the very least substitute more sustainable stuff for rare animal bits, the better off tigers and all the other animals endangered by a bogus medical practice will be.

Are wild tigers worth saving? You betcha! They’re an apex predator, and we’ve discovered that such predators are critical for healthy ecosystems. When you remove the top predators, bizarre and bad things can happen. I mean, just as an example, look at what happened when big cats and other predators vanished from these ecosystems:

In a Venezuelan valley flooded by construction of a dam in the 1980s, Duke University ecologist John Terborgh and his students documented the strange perturbations that afflicted the “islands” of Lago Guri. Top predators — jaguar, mountain lion, harpy eagle — fled rising waters. Multiplying out of control, howler monkeys went mad as their numbers soared and the plants they ate increased toxins in self-defense.

Who would’ve guessed, amirite?

Besides the role tigers could play in preventing monkey madness, saving tigers also means saving the ecosystems they depend on, so there’s a nice boost to conservation right there. Sexy animals like tigers allow us to protect habitats for the less-sexy but also important plants, animals, and insects that form the web of life with them.

There’s definitely hope for tigers, and you’ll find that hope, plus a lot more information, in this fascinating interview with biologist Alan Rabinowitz. The takeaway message is, we can save wild tigers. We can do it by supporting organizations and governments that are working to stop habitat loss, enforce poaching laws, and build corridors for tigers to travel between their protected islands, in order to allow essential genetic mixing. We can make room for everyone, if we’re sensible.

So check out organizations like Panthera, and consider contributing to the cause. Also, check out these adorable pictures and videos of tigers. And when you’re done with that, head on over to Rosetta Stones, where we investigate the awesomeness that is the gemstone tiger’s eye. You’ll get to see it in its unpolished glory, and see how we found out we’d been really wrong about it for over a century!

Tiger cub cuteness!

Image shows two tiger cubs play-fighting. One has its sibling pinned. The pinned sibling is on its back with its hind foot up by the other's ear and looks like it's shouting "NOT IN THE FACE!"
Not in the face! Not in the face! Playful tiger cubs courtesy John Tuggle (CC BY 2.0).

Tigers eating watermelons!

Tiger cubs kissing!

One half-grown tiger cub licks another on the cheek, with a snowy background.
Kisses! Image courtesy Tambako the Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Tiger cubs playing with pumpkins!

Tiger cubs wrestling!

Image shows one tiger cub lying down and looking towards the left of the camera, holding one paw over its sibling's face. The sibling is lying on its back with its paw in the air.
“Shut up, I’m trying to watch this! It’s the best part!” Image courtesy Tambako the Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Adorable wild tiger family having an outing!

Yeah, tigers are awesome. I’m glad we still have some!

Image shows one adult tiger lying down with its eyes closed. Another is standing beside it, resting its face against its forehead. D'aw!
Snuggles! Image courtesy Tambako the Jaguar (CC BY-ND 2.0).
Happy International Tiger Day! We’re Celebrating With Pretty Tigers and Tiger’s Eye
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6 thoughts on “Happy International Tiger Day! We’re Celebrating With Pretty Tigers and Tiger’s Eye

  1. rq

    “Chatomancy” would be some awesome new kind of woo (or is that just ye olde blacke catte type witchery?). Did you mean “chatoyancy”? :D

  2. 5

    Tigers are beautiful and terrifying – a magnificent example of a top predator. They certainly should be preserved in their wild and natural state. I’m not sure that I would want to live in close proximity to them, however.
    My wife & I have fond memories of watching the tigers play in the snow during a long-ago visit to the Detroit Zoo. It would be a shame if zoos were the only place tigers were to be found.
    Tiger’s-eye is pretty cool, too. Thanks for providing a more up-to-date explanation of its formation. I was not familiar with hawk’s-eye, but it is likewise beautiful. I have a couple of decent-size chunks of tiger’s-eye that I really ought to do something with.

  3. 6

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s been far too long since I visited the PDZA, and the affiliated Northwest Trek. My wife won’t be able to walk the zoo, perhaps I can get my niece from Tacoma to take me.

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