Save the tiger. How can each individual help the Siberian tiger, of which there are only 540 left in Russia?

Over the last 100 years, the number of tigers in the world has decreased by 96%: out of 100,000 individuals, only 4,000 have remained in the wild, while only six out of nine subspecies managed to survive in the 20th century. What do we, the inhabitants of the megacities, care about tigers, what is the danger of their extinction from the planet, and what non-obvious but basic habits each of us can take today to help save endangered species - Esquire looked into this question with the help of Pavel Fomenko, head of the rare species department of the WWF-Russia Love branch and an expert in the "Save the tiger" project, which will premiere on March 31 at 8:00 pm on the Discovery Channel.
Save the tiger. How everyone can help the Amur tiger, of which only 540 remain in RussiaDiscovery


Tigers are becoming extinct for a number of reasons, and these factors have also varied over time. For example, while in the 19th and 20th centuries, mass extermination of predators for the sake of skin and status took place, today the main threat to the population is considered to be the decrease in its natural range. Civilization is progressing and it is mainly attacking tigers: forests are being cut down, land is being used for construction or cultivation, or for other industrial needs. Humans not only drive tigers from their habitat, they also deprive them of food - antelopes and wild pigs (which are used as fodder by predators) cannot thrive in such an area. This is why, for example, in Kazakhstan, the project to revive the now extinct Turanian tiger began with the opening of the new reserve on the island of Balkhsha, covering more than 415,000 hectares, and the first enclosure for the Bukhara deer was opened there on January 11, 2019. It is only after this preparatory stage that it will be possible to introduce Amur tigers, the closest relatives of the disappeared subspecies, on the territory, from where it is planned to revive the Turanian predators.

Amur tigers are rescued in Russia in Primorsky krai, especially in the Far Eastern National Park "Bikin". Pavel Fomenko, head of the rare species department of the WWF-Russia Amur branch, works there; he has dedicated more than 25 years of his life to the study and protection of these animals. "The factors influencing the tiger population are constantly changing according to demand, market conditions and the political situation. Speaking of Russia, in the 1990s and at the beginning of the 21st century, poaching, i.e. the direct slaughter of animals, was the main reason for the tiger's extinction. However, over time, habitat degradation, mainly deforestation, has become a more serious problem. In addition, another type of poaching - the uncontrolled hunting of wild ungulates - also affects the tiger today, reducing its food resources. There is also a potential biotic threat related to the spread of very serious diseases, first of all in the wild boars that the tiger eats (wild boars can transmit plague, anthrax, tuberculosis and a large number of parasites dangerous to animals. - Esquire) and tigers themselves.

The problem of poaching is primarily a socio-economic problem. You can make people's lives as difficult as you want, by tightening the legislation to the end, but in fact you will not solve the main problem - as long as a man, a peasant, has nothing to feed his family, he will try to get a piece of meat, including by illegal means. Russia has a rather strong tradition of nature protection: we have always had good schools to train specialists, above all biologists and game wardens. Of course, we adopt some positive aspects, but on the whole, there is nothing to teach us. For example, Chinese poachers don't come to Bikin Park and don't try to wander in the Russian forests, but they try to do everything with our hands, buying animals that have already been harvested. 

Thus, for those who want to influence the situation and support tigers in one way or another, they can simply refrain from buying tiger skins or any other tiger products; for example, tusks and claws are highly valued in Chinese medicine.

What else can we do today, if we already have the desire to help, if we are not interested in skins and going out to fight poachers on a voluntary basis seems like too radical a change in our lives? First of all, reconsider your daily life habits. It will really help, even if the nearest wild tiger is 8,000 kilometers away. Eliminate cardboard packaging for recycling, sort waste, only dispose of batteries in the containers provided, turn off the water when you brush your teeth, try to manage all business via electronic document management without printing paper documents, limit, if possible, the amount of disposable paper products (for example, buy coffee in a thermal cup, not a cardboard cup) - all this is gradually helping to save the forests that are disappearing so quickly because of logging.

At first glance, these are just trifles: for example, in one minute, 7-10 liters of water comes out of the tap, and if you stop wasting it, then in one year, one person can save up to 8,000 liters. Recycling a ton of cardboard can save the felling of 17 trees, and the energy saved with a single recycled aluminum can is enough to run a television for three hours. "Of course, a plastic bottle or dish thrown away in the same second won't really affect the well-being of a tiger somewhere in the taiga of the Far East," explains Pavel Fomenko.

- But we have to realize that every such action is a small brick, on which the welfare of wild animals and plants at the top of the pyramid rests. But it is possible to break this fragile structure, being on the other side of the planet, because everything in our world is connected".

There are only 540 predators of Love left in Russia, while the population of the country exceeds 140 million people. But why should we help tigers today, in the 21st century, especially for the inhabitants of big cities, who do not depend on wildlife, have mastered it? For Pavel Fomenko, the disappearance of the tiger from our planet is comparable to an ecological catastrophe. "There are emblematic species in nature - they are like beacons. If a lighthouse is visible and flashing, then everything is normal or relatively normal, and wildlife exists. If the beacon goes out, then there is a problem. That's how it is with the tiger. It is at the top of the ecological pyramid, which consists of many bricks. When one brick was removed, the pyramid would shake; when the second brick was removed, it would fall to the side. The third brick was recklessly ripped off its support - and our beacon collapsed with the tiger. Of course, you can see nature on the TV screen or through the window of your house, but you have to look much further to see if these beacons - tigers, bears, cougars, lions, leopards, high level animals, indicators of wilderness - still exist.

In addition to the means mentioned above, one can influence the tiger extinction situation in all practical and legitimate ways that exist in the country where the beacons live. You can put your signature on a petition - and your voice can be decisive in an important issue. You can tell your children, your colleagues, your neighbors, your family about the problem - if at least one person starts sorting the garbage, it will be a good example for others. Of course, you can always help financially, because even a small amount transferred to a trustworthy charity can help to save the population".