Saturday, 27 July 2019

If tigers were extinct

There is a saying, 'you don't know what you have until it's gone'. So to understand the value of tigers, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario when tigers are extinct. 


Tigers are apex predators. Although tigers can hunt many other animals starting from small birds to medium-sized mammals, a large part of tiger's diet consists of herbivores like different species of deers, etc. If tigers are extinct, this predation pressure will not be there to control the number of herbivores. As herbivore population grows uncontrollably, their demand for vegetation for food will also grow. This will limit the natural growth of trees and can lead to a complete loss of vegetation over a few years. Herbivores can then migrate to agricultural lands in search of food, depleting human food sources. The disappearance of the forests will adversely affect all other animals. Insects and other species previously dependent on the forest will not be able to survive and will migrate to civilizations for food. Overgrazing by these animals can cause soil erosion, reduced nutrients in the soil, nonnative plant species invasion, deterioration of river water quality, river flow and integrity of river banks, causing floods. The impact on forest, rivers, and the soil will likely affect all aquatic life and every other species depending on them such as birds. The entire ecosystem will collapse. 


Apart from the impact on the ecosystem, extinction of tigers will cause losses in terms of tiger tourism revenue which is as high as $750,000 per tiger per year in a well-visited park in India. Forests and its surrounding ecosystem consisting of rivers and agricultural lands are also the main sources of income for millions of people. The direct and indirect impact of tiger extinction in economic terms will be too high to compensate. Loss of forest will lead to: more Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment, erratic rain patterns and further climate change. 


Wild tigers have been the biggest reason for my wildlife addiction. I hope wild tigers continue to fascinate people not only throughout my generation but for all future generations. But even if we ignore this emotion, tigers are an essential part of the ecosystem that our lives depend on. So by saving wild tigers, we will, in fact, save ourselves. 


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