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Global Tiger Day

Today I want to bring awareness to something that is important. This blog post may be disheartening, but hopefully, by the end, you will leave with a sense of hope and some tools to help undo the devastating decimation of a particularly beautiful animal.

The Tiger.

July 29th is International Tiger Day. I know there has been a bombardment of various ‘holidays’ and dates coined by companies trying to push something or sell a product.

This is different.

This is concerning an issue that affects our earth and our ecosystem and our future.

The Facts:

  • According to the WWF there are only 3900 wild tigers left in the world. That’s a %95 decrease in the last 100 years.
  • According to tigersincrisis.com, 3 of the original 9 subspecies of tigers have become extinct in the last 80 years. (Bali, Caspain, Javan).
  • In the early 1900’s, there were 100,000 tigers throughout the world. In the 1970’s, that number reduced to a mere 4,000 and has continued to decline overall.
  • Of the 6 remaining subspecies of tigers, 4 are endangered (Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Siberian/Amur) and 2 are critically endangered (South China & Sumatran).

When I first read these statistics, I was dumbfounded. Speechless. A tiger is a commonly known animal; kids pretend to be tigers while playing, you can find their likeness in toys and baby clothing and books, there are numerous cartoon tigers in games and television. How could they be almost gone? Will my children or grandchildren grow up to live in a world where the tiger is a legend of the past? The very thought just seemed so surreal and impossible.

Upon further investigation, I learned that the two biggest threats to these mystical cats are the loss of habitat and poaching (as one would expect). Habitat fragmentation is due to many factors; some natural and some caused by humans and land development. Not only does this have a direct consequence, but it is also indirectly affecting the wildcats by reducing their amount of prey and food. In addition, tiger cubs are not independent until the age of 2 years and cannot reproduce until the age of 3-5 years. Apparently, juvenile mortality is high, resulting in 1/2 of all cubs perishing before they reach maturity. But what really surprised me was the information about poaching. Tigers are not only hunted for their pelts, but to be used in different forms of medecine.

Some people may think that tigers are just predators, they’re scary and dangerous, what good could they possibly provide? Well, according to this foundation, tigers are beneficial to the environment in the following ways:

  • prevent over-grazing by limiting herbivore numbers
  • maintain ecological integrity
  • they are an umbrella species allowing a variety of other animals to flourish

Protecting the tigers’ habitats can also help sustain natural resources and help communities across the world that rely on these resources.

But what does this have to do with homeschooling?

As a home educator, I bear the responsibility of facilitating not only academic lessons to my children, but also environmental and current event topics. Empathy, awareness, and motivation are part of our education. Caring for others and the world is important to instill in the younger generation. The damage done cannot be resolved overnight, sometimes it takes lifetimes to correct a problem. So why not start early?

Because we work through unit studies, this seemed like a timely topic to build around. I stumbled upon the book Meet The Tiger by Stefan Casta & Anna Viktorsson at IKEA and was drawn in immediately by the cover art. Flipping through I discovered beautiful illustrations accompanied by a plethora of incredible information. The authors truly introduce children to tigers through explaining their: anatomy, habitats, indigenous regions and territories, how they speak, what they hunt, their strengths, and of course-their relationship with man that is leading to their downfall as a species. There is a craft and game inside to help engage students and the book is really very wonderfully made. It’s colorful and interesting and will definitely be of use not only in our current unit study, but for many years to come.

I want my children to grow up to learn mankind’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s crucial to understand our history so that we do not repeat the same mistakes. It’s important, to me as a mother, to instill empathy for people, animals, and the natural world. The earth is our resource, but we must use it wisely and we are responsible for our own actions.

Be the change

There are several foundations that have formed to help relieve the tiger’s burden. Tiger reserves and sanctuaries are attempting to sustain the life of this animal and increase it’s numbers to pull it out of endangered status. If you are an animal-lover or are passionate about making a difference, you can donate to this cause by clicking here.

Many people do not realize this, but the American Alligator was, at one point, an endangered species and teetering on the brink of extinction. Through the Endangered Species Act they recovered and were removed from the status in the 1980’s.

Change has happened before and it can happen again. It starts with us and our children.