Monday, February 6, 2012

Cute but deadly

I learned a surprising fact today: there are now more tigers alive in captivity than in the wild. And a huge number of them live in the United States. And nobody knows exactly how many; a US government worker puts the number somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000. This is all stuff I learned on CBC's the Nature of Things.

The show was mainly about the debate amongst experts as to whether captive tigers are "junk" tigers, that is, too inbred to repopulate wild habitats.  It also did a pretty reasonable job of mitigating any "ZOMG WANT WANT WANT"-factor by highlighting the 2003 injury of stage magician and seasoned tiger trainer Roy Horn, and my personal favourite line about a tiger who had been seized from his owner and put in a sanctuary: "Had he been seized prior to that, his owner would still be alive today."

The thing that struck me as most interesting was the comment that we "need new ideas." This flies completely in the face of what is being discussed at that exact moment in the show: natural habitat destruction and illegal tiger goods. We don't need new ideas; we need political will. All the captive-bred tigers in the world aren't going to repopulate the wild if there's no wilderness to repopulate. And governments need to crack down on poaching by making sure the penalties for buying, trafficking, or selling tiger parts are harsh and consistently enforced.

Anyway, if you like cute animals or nature shows, totally worth watching.

The full episode is available online. 

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