Talk about a facepalm-worthy moment…yesterday was International Tiger Day, a day to bring awareness to the rapid decline of the tiger species, and to celebrate, Bing.com’s homepage featured a photo of a tiger swimming in a pool…in a zoo. Let’s pause for the facepalm.
While the attempt to spread the news about International Tiger Day was a kind gesture from the folks at Bing, clearly there was some connection missing there. Some people assume that zoos are a safe space that are solely driven by the interests of the animal, and even exist for conservation purposes. We can contend that some zoos have successfully carried out breeding programs to help repopulate seriously endangered animals, providing them with a space where they are protected from poachers and other external threats…but, on International Tiger Day, should we not highlight the issues facing wild tigers that would cause them to need to be rehabilitated in a human-monitored environment?
The fact is, there are only a few thousand tigers left in the wild, while the majority of the species is taken from the wild and sold into zoos or a series of elaborate tourist exhibits. Habitat destruction due to palm oil production and other modes of human industry are driving tigers out of the wild and leaving them with no other place to live, let alone survive that man-made structures such as zoos.
We’re sure this barely scratches the surface on the many ways that humans have driven tigers to the brink of extinction, and we’ve made our point as to why this poor choice to feature a tiger in the zoo illustrates a massive disconnect in the way we think about animal conservation.
Wild animals belong in the wild and if we take their habitat away, they will all be forced to endure lives solely sustained by the willingness of humans to pay to go see them. This is not what we want to promote on International Tiger Day. Be a Green Monster, make the connections and in celebration of this special day for tigers (belated though it may be) learn how you can change your own consumption habits to help save the tiger and keep them wild, not just wild at heart