South Africa has the scourge of rhino poaching but Asia has the canker of the plundering of their tiger populations. In a recent Time Magazine it states that 274 of a population of approximately 1700 have been killed over the past few years. At that rate, the chances of my grand-children being able to view tigers in the wild, is modest at best.
So far humankind has only been able to arrest the decline of one animal species and that is the whale. With the price of these animal’s body parts sky-rocketing – apparently it has increased by tenfold over the past five years – the supply of poachers has exceeded the demand.
What was quite shocking to hear was a candid answer by a game guard during a guided hiking trail in the Kruger National Park that their fellow workers are complicit in the killing of the rhinos within the park itself. Greed has converted the guards into the poachers. If that is the case, what is the point of appointing game guards? It is equivalent to the ancient English saying of “appointing the foxes to guard the hen house.”
The truly mortifying tragedy is that if these culprits are perchance caught – a slight professional risk – they will probably be supported tenaciously by their local shop steward who themselves are members of such a syndicate.
Needless to say, this appalling situation is unlikely to change as there are too many vested interests in the current status quo.
Like with rhino poaching in South Africa, there are local initiatives to assist the tigers. This one which I relate below is that happens to some Thai Buddhist Monks who are presented with a feline predicament of gigantic proportions.
In 1999, the inhabitants of a tiny village in the province of Kanchanaburi in Thailand discovered in the local forest two injured baby tigers whose parents had been killed by poachers.
Not knowing what to do with them, they carried them to the local Buddhist temple Wat Pha Luang where they were housed and cared for by the monks.
Since then, many orphaned baby tigers have been taken to this temple where the monks have raised them.
Having been raised by humans, these tigers are tame. So as not to allow them to develop a taste for blood, they are only provided with cooked food.
They are treated like any other member of the temple family with no special precautions taken.
The temple has now become a sanctuary for animals and a preservation centre. People are encouraged to visit the temple where the employees keep the tigers under control and are ready to intervene if these animals become agitated.
It is the only place in the world where people can pat tigers without any fear.