All of the tiger
species left in the world are endangered. In the second
half of the 19th century eight sub-species of tigers
could be found. Today only 5 sub-species of tiger are
left and most of these can be found in zoos. Here they
are bred to stop them from becoming yet another species
on the extinction list and to create strong public awareness.
A century ago, an estimated 40 000 tigers (Panthera
tigris) roamed free over an enormous area stretching
from the Russian Far East, through eastern and southern
China, south-east Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and
into the Indus River Valley in Pakistan, with disjoint
populations living in and around the southern reaches
of the Caspian Sea and associated river valleys, and
on the Indonesian Islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali.
Between then and now, the threatened extinction of the
tiger has reached critical proportions, with the Caspian,
Javan and Bali sub-species already destroyed. The existence
of the surviving Bengal Southern China, Indo-Chinese,
Sumatran and Siberian tiger sub-species continues to
be challenged by poachers - who collect body parts for
traditional medicines, aphrodisiacs and trophies - and,
to a lesser extent, by the progressive inhabitation of man in tiger territory.
Tigers stand more than one meter high, averaging 3 meters
in length, including a meter long tail. They weigh between
181 and 226kg, and yet they are able to leap almost
ten meters across the ground and jump as high as three
meters into the air. They are capable of killing animals
more than twice their size, eating on average 31kg of
meat per night. They are one of nature's most
feared predators, and yet, they are bordering on extinction.
The call to "Save the Tiger" led to one of
the most celebrated and extensive conservation initiatives
ever undertaken in all of Asia. India's Project Tiger
was launched in 1973 with the enthusiastic support of
then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi International conservation
organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and IUCN
World Conservation Union rushed in to help.
Although the endeavor to save the tiger was off to a
respectable start in a reasonably short period of time,
the threat was - and still is - by no means over.
In 1994 India addressed the tiger crisis again, this
time with the initiation of the Global Tiger Forum aimed
at engaging the international community in tiger conservation
and to bring about increased public awareness of the
tiger's plight. The quest continues today
South Africa's most recent contribution to tiger conservation
was the arrival of Rajah, a magnificent White Bengal
male and Cher, a White Bengal female as well as Kiri,
a white gene carrying orange tiger. Their new home,
the Cango Wildlife Ranch just outside Oudtshoorn in
the Little Karoo is internationally recognized for its
extensive conservation efforts.
Established in 1986 by managing director, Andrew Eriksen,
the Ranch has carried out numerous successful breeding
programs and attracts interest and awareness from tourists
and locals alike.
"Our decision to introduce
tigers to the Ranch is in line with our policy to assist
in achieving international conservation objectives with
the maintenance of self-sustaining populations of endangered
species in captivity. The extraordinary and awesome
Bengal tiger is seriously threatened with extinction
and breeding programs in captivity are becoming last-ditch
refuges for endangered species.
The fact that Cher and Rajah are two of approximately
only 250 White Bengal Tigers in the world adds to their
appeal and gives us a greater scope to attract public
attention to the tiger and their plight as an endangered
species. We havethe opportunity to assist with
the promotion of the conservation of the tiger through
behavioral research, public awareness, and in the long
term, captive breeding,” explains Andrew.
- Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) – approximately 2 000
- Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) – less than 530
- Indo-chinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) – below 1 500
- Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) – 400 – 500
- Malyan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) – unknown
- South Chinese Tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) – believed to be extinct as not a single wild individual has been sighted for over 25 years
- Balinese Tiger and Caspian Tiger – Extinct