What if tigers did become extinct?
WWF devotes considerable resources to its campaign to save the tiger from extinction.
Upsetting the ecological balance
The tiger is at the top of the food chain in all the ecosystems it lives in. As such, it keeps populations of deer, wild pig, antelope and gaur in check. Without the tiger to control them these prey species would expand.
This excessive population would then totally ravage its food source - vegetation. If the vegetation in the jungles was devastated, smaller animals and insects would not survive there.
If the insects moved to the crops in farmlands vital food sources could be lost, impacting on human populations.
If plants can no longer grow in the jungle the soil will become infertile and eventually the jungle - and all that depend on it - will fade away.
Other consequences include:
- Negative impacts for human welfare and economic development. Communities in Asia depend on the same clean water, clean air, natural flood controls and other forest resources that tigers need. Without the protection for tigers these ecological services are at risk.
- Loss of ecotourism opportunities. Local communities are working with governments and NGOs to develop ecotourism opportunities based around tigers. Without the tigers these burgeoning business opportunities will fail. Examples include the Srepok Wilderness Area.
- Coextinction of other species. If one species in a food chain becomes extinct there is a knock-on effect on other species. The loss of a main predator can actually cause the extinction of a prey species as greater competition presents a threat to a species.1
- Another species to be exploited? When the Bali and Javan tigers became extinct in the 20th century, poachers turned their attention to the Sumatran tiger. Which animal will be exploited into extinction once all the tigers are gone?
- Climate change. If tigers were to go, the forests which are currently protected as key habitat would be more likely to fall victim to illegal logging, conversion to agriculture and development. This leads to greater CO2 emissions and climate change. Deforestation currently accounts for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Which species live alongside the tiger?
The 5 sub-species of tigers live in some of the most spectacular parts of the world which provide a home for some other amazing species, including:
And we would have to take the blame.....
Extinction is permanent, and it is the failings of modern man - habitat destruction, hunting and poaching - which have driven tigers into extinction.