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  • Writer's pictureChris Rodgers

International Tiger Day: Safeguarding Tigers Amidst Controversial Proposals

A hunter posing behind a dead tiger

On the occasion of International Tiger Day, Nepal finds itself in the midst of a contentious debate sparked by a proposal from Birendra Mahato, the Minister of Forests and Environment. The suggestion to allow limited tiger hunts as a means of managing the country's growing tiger population has ignited strong reactions from various stakeholders, including conservationists, biologists, Indigenous communities, and animal advocates.

During a podcast interview in June, Minister Mahato put forth the idea of auctioning hunting opportunities to bidders from other countries.

As the world joins hands to raise awareness about tiger conservation, it becomes imperative to delve into the differing perspectives surrounding this proposal, which was also presented as a means of generating revenue for the government and funding conservation efforts.

A tiger walking next to a body of water in Ranthambhore National Park, India

In the interview, Minister Mahato revealed that he had been approached by American and Japanese hunters offering substantial amounts of money to partake in tiger hunts in Nepal. His vision involved establishing a month-long hunting season every four or five years, without mention of specific bag limits or quotas (due to the language of the interview being in Nepali). However, reports suggest that the potential for hunters to take down multiple tigers during this hunting period was under consideration.

History and Significance:

The roots of International Tiger Day can be traced back to the 2010 Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia. During this summit, several countries, including India, Russia, and China, united to make a solemn commitment to protect tigers. This collaboration gave birth to Tx2, a coalition of thirteen tiger range countries dedicated to doubling the tiger population by 2022, coinciding with the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Over the years, this significant occasion has garnered widespread recognition, uniting people globally in their support for the conservation of these majestic creatures. Unfortunately, the target wasn't met but good work has been done to increase numbers.

Ten Reasons Why International Tiger Day Matters:

  1. Spotlighting Conservation Initiatives: International Tiger Day shines a spotlight on diverse conservation efforts worldwide, garnering support and active engagement from individuals and organizations alike.

  2. Fostering Global Collaboration: Tigers inhabit diverse regions across Asia, underscoring the need for international partnerships to ensure their effective protection. This call for cooperation becomes even more crucial in light of recent proposals, such as the one made by Birendra Mahato, Nepal's environment minister, who suggested allowing "sport hunting" of tigers by wealthy foreigners.

  3. Curbing Illegal Wildlife Trade: International Tiger Day plays a crucial role in reducing the demand for tiger products and combating illegal wildlife trade. The proposal for "sport hunting" raises concerns about potential loopholes and illicit activities that could further threaten these majestic creatures.

  4. Maintaining Ecosystem Equilibrium: As apex predators, tigers play a critical role in their ecosystems by regulating the populations of their prey species.. Targeted hunting based on specific traits could disrupt this balance and have detrimental effects on the overall ecosystem health.

  5. Addressing Declining Population: International Tiger Day highlights the alarming decline in tiger populations over the past century, emphasizing the urgency to take action to reverse this trend. The proposal for "sport hunting" could exacerbate the population decline, undermining conservation efforts.

  6. Vital Role as Keystone Species: The tigers' presence as a keystone species profoundly influences and shapes their surrounding environments.

  7. Spotlighting Conservation Initiatives: International Tiger Day shines a spotlight on diverse conservation efforts worldwide, garnering support and active engagement from individuals and organizations alike.

  8. Empowering the Next Generation: Through education about tigers and conservation, International Tiger Day instils a sense of responsibility in young minds to safeguard wildlife and the environment.

  9. Influencing Policies and Funding: The increased awareness generated by International Tiger Day can foster stronger public backing for policies and enhanced funding to combat tiger poaching and bolster wildlife protection endeavors. Public outcry against detrimental proposals can lead to a collective demand for responsible conservation measures.

  10. Encouraging Responsible Tourism: International Tiger Day promotes responsible tourism practices that prioritize wildlife protection and conservation. This includes opposition to proposals that could exploit tigers for commercial hunting, emphasizing ethical wildlife tourism.

A Collective Responsibility

A tiger known as "Arrowhead" on a hunt to feed her two cubs.

As we commemorate International Tiger Day, let us reflect on the challenges and opportunities ahead in tiger conservation. While celebrating the progress made, we must also recognize the need to protect these magnificent creatures from harmful proposals that could undermine their survival.

The recent proposal for "sport hunting" by wealthy foreigners in Nepal, made by Birendra Mahato, serves as a stark example of why our work is far from over. It reminds us of the urgent necessity for global cooperation, advocacy, and collective action to safeguard tigers and their habitats.

Two tigers cooling off in a lake

On this auspicious day, let us recommit ourselves to the preservation of these majestic creatures, ensuring they continue to thrive in their natural habitats for generations to come. By rejecting harmful proposals and embracing sustainable conservation strategies, we can secure a future where tigers continue to roam freely and proudly represent the resilience and beauty of our natural world.

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