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Counting Tigers: A Survival Special on ITV

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On ITV tonight (that’s Tuesday 30 July 2019) at 9pm UK time, ITV are showing Counting Tigers:  A Survival Special and it should make very interesting viewing.

Tiger Numbers fell drastically

There are now just about 4,000 tigers left in the wild around the world and about 60% of those live in India.  Estimates suggest that the tiger population has gone down 95% in the last century alone.

India Tiger Survey now takes place every 4 years

India has just undertaken its next tiger survey to count these magnificent animals in the country’s borders.  If the tiger numbers go up, there’s hope for the species.  If they don’t… The programme has exclusive access to India’s tiger count, an event which takes place every 4 years.  The results come in area by area.   Please be warned that the programme has terrible evidence of poaching.

What’s behind the fall in tiger numbers?

Their numbers dropped because of people, of course;   people encroaching on tiger habitat, and poachers who wanted every bit of the tiger to sell.

India has been changing very rapidly – with roads, railways and industry spreading all over the place which makes it very difficult for the tiger to survive.   Trophy hunters also want to shoot tigers, no doubt many of them claiming that’s in the cause of “conservation”.

Greed and ignorance drive the demand for the tiger.   Poachers claim 2 tigers a week, often leaving cubs to fend for themselves and try to make it to adulthood.

Poachers need tigers for their fur as luxury home décor, tiger bone to treat rheumatism and arthritis, and to make a tonic wine, as a general bone-strengthening tonic. Tiger bone wine is often use for bribery, and in some places, it’s sold a virility product. Its teeth and claws become jewellery.  This is all luxury goods – there is no reason why a tiger body part should be traded at all.

Technology helps the tiger survey in India

Martin Hughes-Games is a campaigner and conservationist and he tracks the new count from its start to finish, using the latest technology to determine numbers.   He follows wardens and scientists across the India landscapes.

Camera traps take over 30,000 tiger images, their stripes, (like fingerprints) identify each individual tiger.  Mobile phone mapping apps and DNA analysis are used too.

The new technology gives far greater accuracy to the survey. Counting tigers can be dangerous – they have become lighter on their paws and trackers can easily get trapped in the Sunderbans’ marshlands and become prey. 

What will happen to the tiger?

Hughes-Games finds that in at least one of India’s 50 conservation parks, the tiger is now extinct.  Will other parks find an increase in numbers or have the same sad numbers to report?

Joanna Lumley narrates this programme, and it’s clear that the future of tigers may depend on the efforts of conservationists in India. 

Once the count is complete, the documentary reveals whether the number has risen or fallen - a key moment for the survival of the species because if the count shows a decline then this could spell the end for the tiger in the wild, whereas an increase might indicate that this is one of the world’s most successful conservation stories.


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