3890. That is the estimated number of wild tigers left in the world today and the number is only expected to fall further, as more and more short-sighted criminal enterprises dabble in the illegal tiger trade for short-term gain. Every year, more than a hundred tigers are killed, disrupting the ecosystem and affecting other animals down the food chain.
Stepping up to the plate, Tiger Beer is working together with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to double the world’s wild tiger population to 6,000 by the year 2022. “When we found out that there were as few as 3,890 tigers left in the wild and the main reason for tigers disappearing is illegal tiger trade, we knew that we had to do something to raise awareness and help make the demand for products made with tiger parts socially unacceptable,” said Wong Mie-Leng, global director at Tiger Beer.
The six-year initiative is dubbed 3890Tigers, and uses the power of art to raise awareness and support for the issue. “We know that young men and women do care about wildlife conservation. In particular, 1 in 2 people care more about wildlife conservation and 3 in 4 people are more likely to help a cause that fights illegal tiger trade after learning about the issue of the endangered wild tigers today. By uncaging the power of art and creativity, we want to inspire young men and women to take small but powerful steps to help fight illegal tiger trade,” continued Mie-Leng.
Tiger Beer is also donating a million dollars to the fight to be used, among others, “for the training of rangers to better protect wild tigers”.
We chatted with Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF Tigers Alive, and Nick Gentry, one of the artists commissioned to create art for the initiative, on their thoughts about 3890Tigers and the fight to prevent the animal from going the way of the dodo and saving the world at the same time.
Mike, could you tell us more about the partnership between WWF and Tiger Beer? How did it start?
Mike: Tiger Beer, like WWF, is passionate about safeguarding the future of wild tigers. When Tiger Beer found out that tigers are globally endangered with as few as 3890 tigers in the wild, it was a natural fit that we work together to help double the world’s wild tiger population. This year, the partnership is kicking off with a US$1 million donation to bolster WWF’s efforts against poaching through conservation on the front line (such as training rangers, strengthening law enforcement) and demand reduction through research and awareness campaigns. We are also very excited to launch the digital campaign from now until the end of July – 3890tigers.com – to rally people like you and I to take a stand against illegal tiger trade.
The problem in Asia is that fast developing infrastructure can be an issue for the wildlife habitat. What could be a viable solution?
Mike: The only viable solution for Asia’s infrastructure development is to see tigers as the indicator of sustainable development. Wild tigers form an important thread in the cultural fabric of Asia, and the value of healthy tiger landscapes is clear. As a top predator, wild tigers act as a barometer for the health of our ecosystems. Every time we protect a tiger, we would protect around 10,000 hectares of forest, which provide natural resources for thousands of wildlife and millions of people.
The fact is there isn’t a choice between development or tigers – it is about integrating tigers and their habitats into infrastructure design, planning and construction processes now, so that we can achieve sustainable outcomes that ultimately benefit people.
How did Tiger Beer approach you for this project Nick?
Nick: Tiger Beer made contact with me and five other global artists online, which from the outset represents much of what the project is about; reaching out to like-minded people around the world. This is not a local campaign for a local problem – it’s a global issue, connecting all people that care about nature and the future of this world that we are privileged enough to share with these beautiful animals.
WWF have estimated that only 3890 tigers remain in the wild. Prior to this campaign I had no idea that the number of tigers in the wild has declined by 96% in the past 100 years alone. Prior to that, we have successfully coexisted on this planet with tigers for two million years – so it would be absolutely catastrophic if this generation stands by, as mere spectators while one of the icons of the earth completely disappears.
You spent some time in the Cambodian forests to find out more about this problem. What was that experience like?
Nick: My trip to the Mondulkiri forests of Cambodia, where I had the privilege of witnessing these key environmental issues first-hand, was a genuinely life-changing experience. I had the chance to learn directly from WWF rangers in a place where tigers once roamed up until only ten years ago. It shocked and deeply saddened me to see hundreds of barbaric traps set up on a daily basis by poachers. They are typically crude devices made for as little as $1, which indiscriminately trap and kill a huge range of animals – all for a quick profit. The rangers are unsung heroes in the fight against this, but can only do so much on their own – so it’s clear that going forward we need to innovate and adopt a multi-aspect approach.
How do you hope for your art to move people and take action about the tiger problem?
Nick: As an artist you have to sense the moment and I now feel compelled to use my art to help us inspire each other to counter the immense challenges we face. It is clear that we are running out of time, but that sense of urgency is also a great source of energy and empowerment in itself. People don’t want a guilt trip – that method has been tried before and is not so engaging in a busy world full of challenges. Humans are inherently creative at heart and respond best to inspiration and positive approaches. We want people to be mindful that it is of course an extremely serious issue, but also to have fun and play with the creative tools we have so passionately made for them. It doesn’t cost a thing and could be one of the most uplifting things you can commit to.
Make a difference at 3890tigers.com