Wild Sumatran tiger numbers are thought to be as low as 3-400. They are seen as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) global list of threatened species. IUCN cite the biggest reasons for their population decline as, ‘habitat loss due to expansion of oil palm plantations and planting of Acacia plantations, illegal trade, primarily for domestic market and prey-base depletion.’
The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled their 2013 list of the top ten mammals most reliant on zoos in the UK and Ireland. The Sumatran tiger has been featured this year, because out of all the tiger subspecies it’s the most endangered.
To read more about how the list was compiled you can see the full report here.
But, what do zoos contribute to the conservation of the Sumatran tiger?
To many, tigers are a majestic symbol of strength and beauty. Seeing a tiger up close evokes such powerful emotion. Our offices are based in ZSL London Zoo, home to Jae Jae & Melati and state-of-the-art Tiger Territory. The sound of this beautiful pair calling and chuffing to each other, watching them bond and interact is something that makes the plight of their cousins in the wild even more tangible. The effect of seeing these beautiful animals up close simply cannot be replicated with television or books.
Throughout Tiger Territory, strong conservation messages and interactive displays can be seen. Regular demonstrations and talks throughout the day offer visitors the opportunity to engage with not only presenters, but also the dedicated keepers. The opportunity to discuss breeding, feeding or generic love of tigers with the experts is something that resonates strongly with visitors. It is essential in ensuring that children and adults alike are conscious of the world that they live in and to establish a strong conservation ethic.
21st Century Tiger works with zoos globally to ensure that visitor communication through verbal and non-verbal presentation is as up-to-date and engaging as possible and helps to cement the concept of financial support for wild tiger conservation. Zoos are encouraged to contact us for support or advice.
Globally, zoos are visited by over 6 hundred million visitors a year – that is more than attend football matches! Obviously this puts zoos in an enviable position of being able to generate huge funds to channel into conservation work. Zoos, for example, are the biggest contributors to 21st Century Tiger.
We are not only hosted by ZSL London Zoo, our administration is funded by Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation. This allows us to give 100% of donations received from other sources directly to our carefully vetted and monitored tiger conservation projects. BIAZA member zoos generate in excess of £10 million a year to wildlife conservation projects across all species.
A number of zoos raise money for 21st Century Tiger and trust us to ensure that money is spent on effective and worthwhile conservation projects. Check out our website to see the full list of zoos who have generously donated since 2010.
As mentioned, we are lucky enough to have Jae Jae and Melati as 21st Century Tiger ambassadors. They are very important breeding pair, in fact, Jae Jae is the ‘number 1 Sumatran tiger stud’ in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).
EEPs ensure a central hub of information and build a reliable network across zoos. For example, in veterinary care, without knowledge on how to safely anaesthetise tigers, radio-tracking studies in the wild would not be possible. EEPs ensure that Animal Management professionals are able to access the most up to date and accurate species specific information.
21st Century Tiger is currently appealing for urgent funds for a project with Wildlife Vets International to create a veterinary disease monitoring and research network across Sumatra, and is encouraging zoos to support this.
Preserving genetic heritage
Good zoos believe in working together collaboratively to manage the captive Sumatran population. When tigers across different zoos are managed as part of one global population, it ensures the population is kept genetically and demographically healthy.
As an absolute last resort, should the Sumatran tiger become extinct in the wild, zoos will have ensured a healthy reserve population with enough genetic diversity to ensure their survival.
How some zoos have raised money for conservation
21st Century Tiger have received funds from a number of zoos that we would like to mention but the list is too extensive! Check out our zoo pages here to see what others have supported us over the last few years. We’d like to make a special mention for donations made the last couple of months from Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, Auckland Zoo, Banham Zoo (name a cub campaign), Paradise Wildlife Park and Shepreth Wildlife Park.
Finally, we have to mention the ZSL London Zoo #streakfortigers. Based on the idea that the collective noun for a group of tigers is a streak; 300 brave souls, bared all and streaked through the Zoo, raising an absolutely astounding £70000 (and counting!) for their Sumatran Tiger Campaign.