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The Bengal Tiger – Endangered Species Essay

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    The Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is a native of the Indian subcontinent and makes up two-thirds of the global tiger population. It has been a symbol of loyalty and strength and has significance in Dharmic religions. Throughout history, the Bengal Tiger has been no stranger to threats. Considered a pest in the days of British rule, the killing of its once-abundant numbers was encouraged with government bounties (Chakrabarti 87). However, it was given the Endangered Classification by the IUCN Red List in 2008 due to its rapidly decreasing numbers (Chundawat, Khan and Mallon). Contemporarily, the magnificent animal faces a severe threat from habitat loss and poaching.

    The Bengal Tiger’s habitat is in one of the most populous human areas of the world. Fifty-nine percent of the world’s population lives within the range of the Bengal Tiger (Khan 30). To accommodate the growing populations of India and Bangladesh, uncontrolled urbanization is occurring, which puts stress on the species’ habitat. Bengal Tigers primarily inhabit tropical rainforests, such as the Sundarbans of Bangladesh, due to water access and vegetative cover (Nowell and Jackson, 56-65). But, the spread of large cities is causing deforestation in these areas. Due to deforestation, Bengal tigers lose their habitat and decline in numbers.

    Because their habitat size is decreasing, it is unable to support a viable number of Bengal Tigers. Resources, such as food supplies and water, are limited and therefore, the carrying capacity of their territories have also lowered in recent decades. Apart from losing living space to deforestation, Bengal Tiger numbers are also decreasing because they are killed in “self-defense” by infiltrating humans who are attacked when breaching tiger territory. In other “eye-for-an-eye” cases, retaliatory killing occurs in which tigers are killed for attacking humans. For instance, T1, a man-eating tigress, made headlines in 2018 after she was killed for killing thirteen villagers (Ray).

    Moreover, the Bengal Tiger is also dwindling in numbers due to poachers; the threat is so severe, some cite it as “the most pressing short-term threat to tigers (Chapron et al. 1667). Despite laws, tiger poaching persists and comprises $19 billion dollars in business, annually (Guynup). Tigers’ corpses can fetch up to $20,000 in the black market and every part has a use (Khan 28). For instance, its bones hold great value in Oriental medicine and its fur is used for luxury decoration (Khan 28). While guns and knives are commonly used to poach, interviews by a Bangladeshi researcher revealed that some poachers poison the tiger’s prey for it to die after consumption (Saif and Macmillan 19-20). Once dead, the carcass is scavenged.

    Nonetheless, in light of threats, many effective conservation efforts are in place. Public awareness campaigns have stigmatized tiger fur and lead to decreasing numbers of sales (Banks, et al. 12). In the future, this falling demand will reduce the poaching of the Bengal Tiger. Meanwhile, new regulations passed by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species have cracked down on transnational poachers (Banks, et al. 21-22). The effects of these measures can already be seen in the Bengal tiger population.

    However, little has been done to hinder the Bengal Tiger’s habitat loss. The most beneficial solution is reforestation, but such strategies have been shelved many times due to the lack of funds (Khan 35). There are no wildlife institutions in Bangladesh, where many Bengal tigers live, so protective measures cannot be taken to curb urbanization (Khan 36). Unrestricted urbanization is hurting the Sundarbans and the tiger population, and therefore it must be controlled by the proper authorities. The formation and funding of a wildlife institution cannot only promote ecological awareness in the local population but lead to better care for the Sundarbans and the Bengal Tiger. Similarly, more areas must be protected and deemed reserves for the Bengal Tiger to thrive and increase in numbers.

    Nonetheless, pre-existing measures are not enough, and new measures must be passed to ensure that the Bengal Tiger is removed from the Endangered List. Nonetheless, current and future protective measures must be continuously enforced to ensure their efficacy. All nations and organizations must assume responsibility for this crisis, and those similar to it, and provide effort in this fight for ecological stability. It is this generation’s responsibility to pass on the beauty of the species to future generations by protecting it against threats. By working towards the elimination of poaching and the protection of the Bengal Tiger’s habitat, the species can be saved from extinction.

    Works Cited

    1. Banks, Debbie, et al. Skinning the Cat Crimes and Politics of the Big Cat Skin Trade. Environmental Investigation Agency, 2006, Skinning the Cat Crimes and Politics of the Big Cat Skin Trade, eia-international.org/wp-content/uploads/Skinning-The-Cat-Revised-low-res.pdf.
    2. Chakrabarti, Ranjan. “Local People and the Global Tiger: An Environmental History of the Sundarbans.” Global Environment, vol. 2, no. 3, 2009, p. 87., doi:10.3197/ge.2009.020304.
    3. Chapron, Guillaume, et al. “The Impact on Tigers of Poaching versus Prey Depletion.” Journal of Applied Ecology, vol. 45, no. 6, 2008, pp. 1667–1674., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01538.x.
    4. Chundawat, R. S., et al. “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.” Panthera Tigris Ssp. Tigris (Bengal Tiger), International Union for the Conservation of Nature, www.iucnredlist.org/species/136899/4348945.
    5. Guynup, Sharon. “Illegal Tiger Trade: Why Tigers Are Walking Gold.” National Geographic, National Geographic , 14 Dec. 2017, blog.nationalgeographic.org/2014/02/12/illegal-tiger-trade-why-tigers-are-walking-gold/.
    6. Khan, Mohammad Monirul Hasan. “Ecology and Conservation of the Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans Mangrove Forest of Bangladesh.” University of Cambridge, CiteSeerX, 2004. CiteSeerX, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.691.6934&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
    7. Nowell, Kristin, and Peter Jackson. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan Wild Cats. International Union for Conservation of Nature, 1996, pp. 56–65, Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan Wild Cats.
    8. Ray, Saptarshi. “Man-Eating Indian Tiger Shot Dead after Vast Search.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 3 Nov. 2018, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/03/man-eating-indian-tiger-shot-dead-vast-search/.
    9. Saif, Samia, and Douglas Craig Macmillan. “Poaching, Trade, and Consumption of Tiger Parts in the Bangladesh Sundarbans.” University of Kent, 2006. ResearchGate, www.researchgate.net/publication/286447417_Poaching_Trade_and_Consumption_of_Tiger_Parts_in_the_Bangladesh_Sundarbans.

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