Tomorrow sees the start of the Chinese Year of the Tiger. But I think we can say with certainty that this will definitely not be the year of the tiger for the tiger. For a start - as it is Tiger year in China, there will be a huge increase in demand for tiger products. Superstition still holds sway in China and spare tiger parts are always in demand - skin, genitals, bone, teeth, nails - are all sold in China - and all come from poaching of these magnificent beasts. How do we get rid of superstition? I suppose through constant education through three or four generations.
Thinking about superstition - maybe it has largely died out in the Western world - although I rarely if ever, walk under a ladder, do you?
When I look back to my childhood my mother had superstitions which I no longer practise - or even think about. She would never have may blossom in the house - that was very unlucky - as was ivy. All the ornaments in our house had to be looking inwards if they possessed a face - it was unlucky to have an ornament with a face looking out of the room through a window. How daft can you get? Now I just smile at these old memories - but will it be the same in China as they join the developed world in a big way? I doubt it; these ground up potions sit on apothecaries shelves and tempt all to buy to help their sexual prowess, or halt their diseases, or give them happiness. I think it will take generations for the habits to die out.
And the poor tiger can't wait that long. It is estimated that only about two thousand live in the wild in India now, and although they are ostensibly protected animals, they are still poached. Where there is big money to be made, then there will be unscrupulous people who will stop at nothing.
The only tigers I have ever seen have been in captivity. The last two I saw were in a small zoo attached to an aquarium in Denver. Two enormous beasts lay high up in an enclosure and looked down on us with very wise eyes. At the time I thought it was tragic that such animals should be in captivity, but now I am not so sure.
If the tiger dies out during the next fifty years it will be a tragedy. But I am not sure what we as individuals can do to stop it. Any ideas out there?