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Saving magnificence

There could be no wild tigers alive within six years


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - CONTRIBUTED PHOTO One Sandy man has a plan to save the Siberian tiger, one of the eight wild tiger sub-species.Barry Lane, who lives and works in Sandy, doesn’t want to sound the panic alarm, but he’s almost at that point.

A few facts gleaned in 2010 made the difference between remaining a complacent bystander or taking action.

When Lane heard that the population of wild tigers in Asia had dwindled from 100,000 in 1900 to fewer than 3,000 today, he was shocked.

The numbers were too staggering to believe. He had to prove them wrong.

That’s when he began to research the wild tiger and learn why the world was seeing its demise.

He learned that among the eight species of wild tigers, four are already extinct. Gone forever.

“Based on my (extensive) research,” he said, “sadly, those numbers are correct.”

Lane knows that once the current supply of fewer than 3,000 runs out, the money-hungry poachers will move on to exploit something else — without looking back.

Unless something is done.

Lane has an idea for saving the Siberian tiger that could work.

But he needs public support and agreement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska’s governor, Sean Parnell, and the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lane is taking the first step this Saturday.

He has scheduled an informative session in Sandy to explain to local residents the desperate situation for the wild tiger. During the meeting, he will show a video and answer questions about his proposal to save wild Siberian tigers.

There are no alternatives, he said, if no one is successful saving the four remaining wild species.

“This is one of the most magnificent and charismatic animals walking the face of this earth,” he said. “And it’s almost extinct. That’s shocking - that we allowed this to happen.”

Where did they go?

It’s not like everyone stood by, watching as the wild animals were killed and their bodies cut apart and sold to the highest bidder.

But it has happened.

While this desecration of species continued, there were efforts against poaching by the international division of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Exxon Mobil, Global Tiger Patrols, Saving Wild Tigers (Sierra Club), Save Tigers Now (World Wildlife Fund), Wildlife Conservation Society, Panthera, World Bank and Big Cats Initiative (National Geographic Society).

This is a sampling of some of the groups working to save tigers but without a lot of overall success.

Lane says the “worry” alarm was sounded in 1969 that tigers were becoming endangered, and by the 1980s millions were being spent on programs designed to stop the trend. At that time, there were about 8,000 wild tigers left.

Habitat was improved; guards were hired to ward off poachers; and prey animal populations were increased, but to no avail. The poachers came in at night and killed the tigers and their prey.

The numbers show these preservation efforts had little effect.

While there probably will never be a total absence of the species, due to animals bred and kept in captivity, there is a very good chance that wild tigers could be lost forever.

In captivity, they can be bred, but the problems with domesticated tigers lie in the fact they are all hybrids and can’t be reintroduced into the wild.

That has been tried, Lane said, but when they were reintroduced to wild areas the animals soon starved to death. In captivity, they lose their wild habits and instinct to hunt their natural prey. In fact, they don’t even learn what their natural prey is when they are born into captivity.

But on the other side, there is tremendous profit in selling tiger parts for traditional Chinese medicine as well as tiger pelts sold anywhere in the world for up to $35,000 each.

Lane referred to the illegal trade from India through Nepal to satisfy the high demand in China, which has a large growing population and a vibrant economy.

Lane says it is folly to believe one person or a group of people could turn the existing tide in Asia. He says the Asian tiger is doomed.

The population is exploding in the countries where tiger parts are in demand. And 93 percent of the tiger’s original habitat in Asia has been burned or bulldozed and turned into some form of economic development.

The only solution, Lane says, is to transplant tigers and their prey to an undeveloped place where prey also have an equal chance to survive.

Without the poachers and with plenty of prey such as deer and wild pigs, tiger populations would continue to thrive and grow.

Lane is proposing to establish a breeding nucleus of Siberian tigers in Alaska. He just needs the approval of Alaskan Governor Sean Parnell as well as Daniel M. Ashe, international affairs office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sergey Donskoy, ministry of natural resources and environment of the Russian Federation, part of the government of President Vladimir Putin.

To that end, Lane has established an online petition through change.org that is being sent to these leaders when people place their name on the petition as a statement they are in favor of the transplanting concept.

Local residents who come to Lane’s meeting this Saturday afternoon will benefit with knowledge from his research, see a video on the Bengal tiger and learn how to join the online petition.

Attendance also will give everyone an opportunity to join an effort to save one species of tiger in the United States, where laws are better enforced and tiger-killing gangs do not exist.

At this meeting also, Lane wants to make a moral argument.

“(Saving wild tigers) is the right thing to do,” he said. “We have to stop killing our way across this planet.”