Extinction beckons

Have you heard of the Sumatran Tiger? The subspecies of Tiger than only lives on the Indonesian island of Sumatra? Yes? There are probably only 300 left in the wild. How about the Javan and Balinese Tiger? No? That’s because those are already extinct. It’s likely that the Sumatran tiger will go the same way.

Here’s a Sumatran Tiger in London.

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

It’s also not just the Sumatran Tiger which is threatened, it’s Sumatran elephants, Sumatran rhinoceroses, and both species of Orangutan. It’s not possible to save any of these species without saving the habitat in which they live.

Sumatran Tigers are threatened because of habitat loss due to farming, loss of prey, and poaching for their body parts. Farmers produce rubber and palm oil from rubber and oil palm plantations. Palm oil is used in chocolates, chewing gum, lipstick, washing powder, doughnuts, soap, and biodiesel as well as being used to deep-fry fish and chips. Palm oil is also the oil of choice for frying food across Asia. They are being killed by capitalism and consumption.

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

There’s a massive, lucrative market in Asia for the parts of dead Tigers. Ignorance and superstition drive people to wear Tiger whiskers as lucky charms or use Tiger penis for erectile dysfunction. I shouldn’t have to say this, but neither work. Their only effect is dead Tigers.

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The European breeding programme and the Global Management Species Programme for Sumatran Tigers are both coordinated by ZSL London Zoo. They hold the stud book to make sure one male doesn’t get over-represented in the gene pool and that inbreeding is minimised. They’ve been successful in breeding Sumatran Tigers in London. What sort of world awaits them?

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

These Tigers survive by being thrown chunks of meat into a cage.

It’s not actually the Sumatran Tiger which needs saving; it’s the whole complex ecosystem of the tropical rainforest with its abundant life which needs protecting.

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Killing Tigers is also counter-productive because they are the top of the food chain. Their role as ‘apex-predators’ means they keep the populations of their prey species in check. No Tigers means an unbalanced ecosystem with an unnatural abundance of their prey species. Their diet includes great argus, pig-tailed macaque, Malayan porcupine, Malayan tapir, banded pig, greater and lesser mouse-deer, Indian muntjac, and Sambar deer. Many of these prey species will become problematic to people in future, just like rabbits on an island without foxes.

We need to move to a system where wildlife isn’t fenced-in, protected and preserved in Nature Reserves but to a system where people live in Human Reserves and the rest of nature is left alone.

Sumatran Tiger - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

In the meantime we carry on consuming, capitalism carries on exploiting and we watch as one of the world’s most stunning ecosystems and many of its most inspiring inhabitants are driven to extinction.

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