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5 Simple Things You Can Do to Help Save Wild Tigers

Tigers have vanished from 93 percent of their historic range, with fewer than 3,200 wild tigers remaining today. Here's how you can help.

 |  Mar 11th 2014  |   1 Contribution


The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the world's favorite animal, according to a survey carried out by Animal Planet. This poll of more than 50,000 people in 73 countries chose the tiger; of the big cats, he's the world's largest and most threatened with extinction. "We can relate to the tiger, as it is fierce and commanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside," says animal behaviorist Dr. Candy d'Sa.

The tiger's win was greeted with hope by conservationists, because if people are choosing the tiger as their favorite animal, they surely will do what is needed to ensure their survival. But tigers have vanished from 93 percent of their historic range, with fewer than 3,200 wild tigers remaining today.

Columbus Zoo Amur Tiger. Photo by Joanne McGonagle.

Will we do what is needed to ensure the tiger's survival? You don’t have to have your boots on the ground in the Sumatran jungle to help save the tigers. Here are five simple, everyday things you can do to help save wild tigers.

1. Choose FSC-certified or recycled tissue and toilet paper products

The green dense rain forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are the only place in the entire world where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans live together. But, since 1985, Sumatra has lost over half of its forest to the pulp and paper and palm oil industries. With only an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, we must all try to preserve the remaining habitat for theses tigers.

The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) hunted down the connection between the United States toilet paper and tissue products and the destruction of tropical forests in Sumatra. What WWF found out is that products from the deforestation are showing up on the United States supermarket shelves and in restaurants, hotels, schools and homes.

Tropical deforestation is reducing Sumatran tiger habitat -- to make paper products.

What you can do:

We as consumers are more alert and empowered than ever before to make responsible buying decisions.

  • Look for tissue products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified or 100-percent recycled.
  • Ask your grocer, retailers, schools, hotels and restaurants if they know the forest source of the tissue and paper products they carry.
  • Ask them to carry more FSC-certified and recycled paper products.

2. Look for products that use RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil

Palm oil represents about 30 percent of the total vegetable oil in the market today and is used in many food products, cosmetics, bath products, and now increasingly in biofuels. Due to rising global demand for vegetable oils, and the fact that yield per acre of palm oil is five to 10 times higher than those of other sources of vegetable oil, palm oil production has increased rapidly over the past 20 years.

Palm oil production is destroying tiger habitats. Palm plantation by Shutterstock

Today, more than 80 percent of palm oil production occurs in Malaysia and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, home of the Malayan and Sumatran tigers. Palm oil plantations have little understory vegetation and are poor habitats for tigers.

What you can do:

You can help tigers by only buying products that use sustainable palm oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifies palm oil producers that follow guidelines aimed at minimizing their impact on tigers, orangutans, and the environment.

As a consumer, your purchasing power can encourage companies to meet their societal and environmental responsibility. You can support these efforts by making sure you only purchase products that contain certified sustainable palm oil, as identified by the RSPO trademark.

Use the palm oil video and smartphone shopping guide app from the Cincinnati Zoo to make tiger friendly purchases.

3. Look for Rainforest Alliance-Certified coffee

There are 400 Sumatran tigers surviving in the wild in Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park on the southern tip of Sumatra. But the tiger’s habitat is shrinking due to illegal squatters who have already converted 20 percent of the park to farmland for growing coffee.

The Rainforest Alliance has been working to stop coffee farmers in the park by encouraging companies to buy only sustainably farmed beans from coffee growers outside the park. The Rain Forest Alliance is able to provide an economic incentive to help prevent further encroachment.  

The Sikhote-Alin area is home to the main population of the rare Amur tiger. Amur tiger in the wild by Shutterstock

Rainforest Alliance-certified farmers must learn to make compost naturally and to interplant their coffee with ginger, elephant grass, and fruit trees to slow down erosion. Certified farmers must also eliminate the use of herbicides and agrichemicals in general. Farmers in the certification program are getting better coffee yields and receiving better prices for their coffee.

What you can do:

You can help save wild Sumatran tigers by paying attention to where your coffee comes from and choosing only coffee grown in an environmentally friendly way. 

The Rainforest Alliance created the Shop the Frog campaign to help consumers find products that are Rainforest Alliance Certified.

4. Read up on saving wild tigers at Panthera's Tigers Forever program

Information about wild tigers is available from many resources online. One of the best resources is Panthera’s Tigers Forever program, a cooperative venture with the Wildlife Conservation Society. The mission of Tigers Forever is to mitigate and eliminate the most urgent threats to wild tigers.

What you can do:

Learn more about the wild tiger so that you can become another advocate to help save the tiger for future generations.

5. Spread the word about the plight of wild tigers

This seems almost too easy, but the truth is many people are not aware of the wild tiger crisis. 

What you can do:

Whenever you get a chance to talk tigers, don't shy away, speak up and ask others to buy FSC-certified paper products, RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil and Rainforest Alliance-Certified coffee. For a more in-depth conversation with your family and friends, you could share your knowledge about the primary threats facing wild tigers today.

  • Wild tigers are being hunted to meet the demands of the illegal wildlife trade market. Tiger parts are consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia, with a heavy demand in China. The international illegal trade in wildlife products is estimated to yield more than $6 billion a year.

Tiger in Cincinnati Zoo by Joanne McGonagle

  • Not only are tigers hunted, but their prey, like deer and wild pigs, have been over-hunted by people. A depleted prey base means that tigers will often attack livestock to feed themselves and their cubs, increasing human-tiger conflict.
  • Because of the increasing human population, humans and tigers are living in close proximity in many places across their range. Wild tigers are often persecuted when villagers take retaliatory measures to protect their livestock.
  • Tigers need intact habitat in order to survive but their habitat is increasingly under threat and being destroyed or fragmented from agricultural developments. This is why it is important to purchase only certified sustainable products. 

Did you know about the plight of wild tigers? Are you going to keep your eye out for certified products? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About the author: Joanne lives in Ohio with Paul and the three cats who rescued them, Annie, Eddie, and Mercy. She is the author of The Tiniest Tiger, a children's book inspired by her cat Gracey, and the award-winning The Tiniest Tiger's Conservation Cub Club, which focuses on all cats big and small.  Joanne has a master’s in zoology from Miami University's Global Field Program, where she is now an instructor. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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