Tigers Fighting Back

2007, Nature  -  50 min Leave a Comment
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Tigers have a right to survive as much as human beings. With fewer than 7,000 of the big cats left, many people think they're doomed to extinction, but some men dare to believe otherwise. The absolute key to saving the wild tigers is protection. If we can't protect tigers, if we can't save them, what can we save? The challenges are immense, but with the help of few committed individuals and their innovative strategies, tigers are fighting back.

In the Russian Far East, the young tiger is on the move. He passes the sleeping village of Tanay, then heads north into the forest. Nobody sees him, but his presence hasn't gone unnoticed. Close on his trail are American biologist John Goodrich and Russian tracker Kola Ribin. They know this tiger. He's one of eight radio-collared animals that the Wildlife Conservation Society or WCS are following in Russia.

Now the tiger is a 19-month-old cub, and he's right at that age where he's spending less and less time with his mother, starting to move more on his own, and this is the first time that he's actually left his territory. There are only 350 or so tigers living along this 1,000-kilometer-long stretch of coast in the Russian Far East, but tigers that enter villages are an ever-present danger to dogs, people, and themselves. John will be watching tiger's every move to make sure he doesn't get into trouble.

Nearly 4,500 kilometers to the southwest, two investigators are going under cover. Australian biologist Tony Linon and his WCS colleague, Callia, are fighting time and illegal tiger trade. They've heard that protected wildlife is being sold in Bangkok's famous weekend market. To gather video evidence, they fit Callia's bag with a hidden camera. Until just a few years ago, tiger skins and bones were openly on sale there. That business has been driven underground, but Thailand is still the hub of Asia's massive illegal wildlife trade.

There are no tiger parts for sale, but they're about to find some animals that are even more endangered. Their video footage will eventually help the Forest Department prosecute the traders, but tomorrow, Tony heads deep into the jungle to help stop this illegal trade at its source. More than 2,000 kilometers further west, Ulas is beginning a journey through the Bhadra Tiger Reserve in Southern India. Ulas has been studying tigers for the Wildlife Conservation Society for more than 14 years. He knows more about India's tigers than almost anyone else.