It’s a difficult video to watch: a mob of men armed with sticks and spears repeatedly strike a tiger lying on the grass with shouts of “kill, kill.” They beat the animal so badly, according to media reports, that she died of shock hours later as a result of blood loss, broken bones and numerous injuries from sharp and blunt objects.
This appears to be a completely senseless act of violence against an animal. But here’s the part that makes even less sense: the attack happened in an area where the tiger should have been protected, in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
India has done a remarkable job of bringing its tigers back from the brink of extinction and just yesterday the country released its latest tiger census numbers -- according to the government of India, there are now nearly 3,000 tigers in the country, a growth of 33 percent over the last five years. But unfortunately, the number of conflicts between wild animals and humans has also been on the rise in the world’s second most populated nation, posing a new level of threat to both humans and animals. Tigers, elephants and other wild animals are at continuing risk as a result.
An investigation into the killing of the tiger is underway and four people have been arrested, with perhaps another 30 people also implicated. But as our HSI/India staff members have observed, with the country’s human population on the rise, and more reports than ever before of wildlife-human conflicts, India needs a robust conflict preparedness and mitigation strategy. This should include large-scale education and outreach efforts to raise awareness among those who live in close proximity to wildlife.
Such education is especially important for those who occupy areas around wildlife preserves, individuals who could occasionally come face to face with a wild animal, like a tiger or a snake.
By terrible coincidence, this latest incident comes just as the world celebrates International Tiger Day. It is yet another reminder of the problems these magnificent animals continue to face, both in the wild and in captivity around the world.
Overall, there are now just under 4,000 tigers in the wild, worldwide, down from approximately 100,000 a century ago. Their populations in the range state countries that they call home have been decimated by habitat and prey loss and by poaching to meet a demand for tiger body parts, including their bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
In the United States, tigers face other cruelties and uncertainties, as they are bred to supply an insatiable demand from the cub-petting industry, roadside zoos and circuses. These wild and powerful animals are sometimes kept in homes as “pets.”
At the HSUS and Humane Society International, we’re fighting every day to protect tigers and other big cats. On the global level, we’ve long fought to end the international trade in tiger parts. We’ve exposed captive tiger breeding within the United States through our investigations of roadside zoos. We’ve pushed for laws to ban the use of wild animals, including tigers, in circuses and in other travelling shows. We have worked to prohibit the private ownership of big cats, and 35 states now have such laws. At the federal level, we are pushing for the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which would ban the possession of big cat species like tigers and lions by individuals and prohibit their exploitation by poorly run roadside zoos that allow public contact with big cats. We know a little about this problem, for we’ve also rescued tigers directly from private ownership and have cared for them at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch; not long ago, we rescued Loki, a neglected tiger who was discovered last February in the garage of a deserted Houston home.
Last November, in response to the Chinese government’s decision to lift a 1993 ban on the sale of tiger bones and rhino horns for medicinal use, we filed a legal petition with the U.S. government seeking a ban on all imports of wildlife and their parts from China until that country amends its law to reinstate a complete ban on the sale of tiger and rhino parts.
Tigers deserve better than to be beaten to death or killed for their bones. But there are more systemic cruelties that place this species at even greater jeopardy. These apex predators are now victims because of human actions, and they need our help more than ever. We can make a start here, in the United States, by passing the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Please call your lawmakers and ask them to support this important bill, so no one can keep a tiger in their backyard or parade cubs for selfies at roadside zoos. We need this strong step in support of the broader worldwide campaign to do these beleaguered creatures greater justice.