Tiger hunting: Wikis

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Tiger hunting by George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and a woman in British India, 1903.

Humans are the tiger's most significant predator, as tigers are often poached illegally for their fur and bones. The Bengal Tiger is the most common subspecies of tiger, constituting approximately 80% of the entire tiger population, and is found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, and India and has been hunted in those countries for centuries. The tiger has historically been a popular big game animal and has been hunted for prestige as well as for taking trophies. Poaching continues extensively even after such hunting became illegal and legal protection was provided to the Tiger. Now an conservation reliant endangered species, the majority of the world's tigers now live in captivity.[1] Tigers were once considered to be harder to hunt than lions, due to their habit of living alone in dense cover and not noisily asserting their presence with roars as often.[2]

Contents

Tiger hunting in the past

Historical Tiger hunting in India, c.1821

In the past, tigers have been hunted on foot, horseback, elephant-back and from machans. Any of these involved considerable danger and the hunting of a tiger has always been considered a manly and courageous feat with game trophies being collected as symbols of valor and prestige.

While the tiger was widely extant and not threatened right up to the first decades of the twentieth century, hunting and habitat loss reduced its population in India from 40,000 to less than 1,800 in a mere hundred years[1]. Despite the prevalence of tiger hunting as a royal sport for centuries, the consequences were larger during the British Raj due to the use of far superior fire power and an interest to hunt shared by a much larger number of colonial aristocrats.

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Czarist Russia

In the first years of the 20th century, the Imperial Russian government began a plan to colonize the Central Asiatic lands inhabited by the Caspian tiger. The Russian local authorities worked heavily to exterminate tigers during a huge land reclamation programme in areas such as the Syr-Daria and Amu-Daria rivers and the Aral Sea. The Russian army was instructed to exterminate all tigers found around the area of the Caspian Sea, a project that was carried out very efficiently. Once the extermination of the Caspian tiger was almost complete, the farmers followed, clearing forests and planting crops. Due to intensive hunting and deforestation, the Caspian tiger retreated first from the lush lowlands to the forested ranges, then to the marshes around some of the larger rivers, and finally, deeper into the mountains, until it almost certainly became extinct. The last stronghold of the Caspian tiger in the former Soviet Union was in the Tigrovaya Balka area, in Tajikistan. Though the tigers were reported as being found here until the mid-1950s, the reliability of these claims is unknown.

Soviet Union

In the early years of the Russian Civil War, both Red and White armies based in Vladivostok nearly wiped out the local Siberian tigers. In the 1920s, tigers were heavily persecuted by the Communists, who would on occasion bag up to eight or ten on a single outing. Legal tiger hunting within the Soviet Union would continue until 1947, when it was officially prohibited.[3]

People's Republic of China

In 1959, during the PRC's Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong declared South China Tigers as enemies of man, and began organizing and encouraging eradication campaigns. By the early 1960s, Chinese tigers had been reduced to just over 1,000 animals. A decade later, their range was reduced to three regions in southern China, two of which were located in the Jiangxi Province.[3]

Tigers in Traditional East Asian medicine

Instructions for tiger skinning

Tiger bones and nearly all body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine for a range of purported uses, including pain killers. Tiger parts are used in traditional East Asian medicines, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine, where many people believe that tiger parts have multiple medicinal properties. When combined with the high prices that furs fetch on the black market and destruction of habitat, poaching for medicinal uses has greatly reduced tiger populations in the wild. A century ago, it is estimated there were over 100,000 tigers in the world; now, global numbers may be below 2,500 mature breeding individuals, with no subpopulation containing more than 250 mature breeding individuals. There is no scientific corroboration to these beliefs, which include:

  • The tail of the tiger is sometimes ground and mixed with soap to create an ointment for use in treating skin cancer.
  • The bones found in the tip of the tiger's tail are said to ward off evil spirits.
  • Crushed tiger bones added to wine serve as a Taiwanese general tonic.
  • The feet of a tiger, when dipped in palm oil and hung in front of a door, are said to diminish the likelihood of evil spirits from entering.
  • Tiger's skin is said to cure a fever caused by ghosts. To use it effectively, the user must sit on the tiger's skin, but beware. If too much time is spent on the tiger's skin, legend says the user will become a tiger.
  • Adding honey to the gallstones and applying the combination to the hands and feet is said to effectively treat abscesses.
  • Burnt tiger hair can allegedly drive away centipedes.
  • Mixing the brain of a tiger with oil and rubbing the mixture on your body is an alleged cure for both laziness and acne.
  • Rolling the eyeballs into pills is an alleged remedy for convulsions.
  • The whiskers are used to cure toothaches.
  • One will allegedly possess courage and shall be protected from sudden fright by wearing a tiger's claw as a piece of jewellery or carrying one in a pocket.
  • Strength, cunning, and courage can allegedly be obtained by consuming a tiger's heart.
  • Floating ribs of a tiger are considered a good luck talisman.
  • The tiger's penis is said to be an aphrodisiac.
  • Small bones in a tiger's feet tied to a child's wrists are said to be a sure cure for convulsions.[4]

Methods

Tigerhunting on elephant-back

Baiting

Baiting consisted of watching for a tiger over the carcass of some animal, domestic or wild, which it had previously killed. The tiger would usually come to its kill in the evening, making the vicinity resound with its loud roars. While there was no danger to the hunter as long as he sat up in the tree, it was dangerous for him to attempt to return home during the night. The hunter would thus have to remain in the tree till morning.[5] In China, small bombs known as pen-tras were placed in a tiger's kill, and would detonate upon ingestion.[2]

Bird lime

In Burma and India, a concoction of mustard oil and latex was strewn around a water hole frequented by a tiger. In an attempt to rid its paws of the sticky fluid with its tongue or teeth, the tiger would involuntarily cover its face with dirt and leaves. The resulting blindness made it easier for it to be brought down.[2]

Hunquah

Hunqua was the rajah's practise in Bengal of reducing the numbers of tigers by setting fire to grass ten or twenty miles around one jungle in such a manner that beaters could drive the fleeing animals into a mile of netting.[2]

Impalement

In upper Irrawaddy, when a bamboo bridge was seen to be used by tigers, the slats of the bridge would be adjusted, so that on its next crossing, the tiger would fall onto sharpened poles at the bottom.[2] In Madhya Pradesh, the Baigas would hang a tiger's kill from the middle of a horizontal pole supported in two forked trees a few feet apart. Because the pole was slippery and had no bark, the tiger would slip, trying to gain access to the kill and fall upon sharpened bamboo spikes at the bottom.[2] In Burma, bamboo stakes would be placed on both sides of a path frequented by tigers. When a tiger made physical contact with a cord tied across the path, the slit half of the bamboo clapper would loudly spring back on its other half. The sound would apparently cause the tiger to leap to one side and impale itself on one of the stakes.[2]

Horse/camel back

Horses and camels were used by cavalry officers in 17th century India, which they found to be more reliable and less unpredictable than elephants. After chasing the tigers to exhaustion, the riders would gallop around the tigers in ever decreasing circles, and then kill the tiger with a sword.[2]

Hunting dogs

For this purpose it was necessary to have a pack of hunting dogs of very considerable strength, well trained in the chase of every kind of big game animal found in the taiga. When hunting, the hunters would usually collect most of the dogs of their village to form a nondescript pack. Not all dogs were equal in hunting, as they differed greatly in quality and character. In every pack there were one or two leaders which the rest follow. If the leader were lost, the pack soon got out of hand. Hunters rarely brought dogs along in heavy snow, as it would impede the dogs' movement and make them easy targets for the tiger.

Upon encountering the tiger, the dogs would begin to bark furiously, at the same time catching hold of its legs and biting it in the hind quarters. In such a manner, they caused it to stop and turn at bay. When the tiger was finally cornered, the dogs would usually make high pitched barks, consistent with feelings of extreme nervousness. Half of the pack would continue to surround the tiger, while the other dogs rested. If, however, the quarry tried to break away, the whole pack charged it, with some of the dogs actually jumping on the animal's back and forcing it to halt once more. Working only from sound and keeping behind trees out of sight of the quarry, the hunter would get within easy range of the latter and shoot it.

Despite their great strength, the tigers usually did not stand their ground against the dogs unless cornered, much preferring to retreat. It was theorized that this is due to the tiger mistaking the dogs for dholes (Cuon alpinus), which have been known to kill tigers on rare occasions.[5]

Conservation efforts

Comparison in distribution historically and 2006

Project Tiger, started in 1972, is a major effort to conserve the tiger and its habitats in India.[6] At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 40,000, yet an Indian tiger census conducted in 1972 revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. Various pressures in the later part of the 20th century led to the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. At the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) General Assembly meeting in Delhi in 1969, serious concern was voiced about the threat to several species of wildlife, and the shrinkage of wilderness in the India from poaching. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed, and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. The framework was then set to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach.

Launched on April 1, 1973, Project Tiger has become one of the most successful conservation ventures in modern history. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially-constituted 'tiger reserves', which are representative of various bio-geographical regions falling within India. It strives to maintain viable tiger populations in their natural environment.

Today, there are 27 Project Tiger wildlife reserves in India, covering an area of 37,761 kmĀ².

Tibet

At the Kalachakra Tibetan Buddhist festival in India in January 2006, the Dalai Lama preached a ruling against using, selling, or buying wild animals, their products, or derivatives. When Tibetan pilgrims returned to Tibet afterwards, his words resulted in the widespread destruction by Tibetans of their wild animal skins, including tiger and leopard skins used as ornamental garments.

Notable tiger hunters

See also

References

  1. ^ Vital Statistics: More Information
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Perry, Richard (1965). The World of the Tiger. pp. pp.260. ASIN: B0007DU2IU.  
  3. ^ a b Matthiessen, Peter (2000). Tigers in the Snow. pp. pp.185. ISBN 1-86046-677-x.  
  4. ^ Tiger
  5. ^ a b "Tiger Hunting and Some Tiger Habits". Museum of North Manchuria, Manchuria Research Institute, Harbin, Manchuria. http://www.loukashkin.org/Tigers/index.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-27.  
  6. ^ Project Tiger Accessed Feb, 2007

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