Protecting species that we can see in our own back yards, like the monarch butterfly, is both important and satisfying. But recent news of the death of the last male white rhino saddened and angered people around the world.

Can we help other exotic species before they meet the same fate? July 29 is Global Tiger Day, and you can help the 3,900 tigers left in the wild.

Wild Tigers

Tigers, the largest cat species, inspire awe around the world. But in the last century, their numbers dropped 95 percent until only 3,200 were left in the wild in 2010. In that year, the 13 tiger-range countries set an ambitious goal to stop the tigers’ decline and double the number of wild tigers by 2022 — the next Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac. Although progress has been made, at current population growth rates, the goal will not be met. 

Tigers are an “umbrella species.” That means meeting their conservation needs — large areas of habitat, protection from poachers — ensures conservation of many other species in the same area. Protecting wild tigers also protects forests and their native biodiversity.

Direct Donations

The World Wildlife Fund (Charity Navigator score 3) is a driving force behind the Tx2 initiative. You can Adopt a Tiger through WWF or another group, like Defenders of Wildlife (Charity Navigator score 3).

See if your local zoo partners with on-the-ground conservation efforts. Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, works to stop poachers in Sumatra and the Bronx Zoo manages the Wildlife Conservation Society, which works throughout the world.

These organizations are having an effect: In 2016, the tiger population increased for the first time in a century; India, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh have all conducted comprehensive population surveys. China has documented tigers in previously abandoned habitats. Nepal has virtually eliminated poaching.

close-up of tiger
U.S. citizens need to let their political representatives know that they object the government’s backpedaling on the protection of endangered species. Photo by Cesco at Pixabay

Domestic Politics

Southeast Asian countries are prioritizing the protection of endangered species like the tiger.

Meanwhile, the United States is rolling back its protections. The Trump administration has already softened restrictions on elephant and lion trophy imports. Like the tiger, elephants and lions are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The Trump administration created the misleadingly-named International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC) specifically to advise the President on how to enhance international trophy hunting. Congressional representatives need to hear from their constituents — that’s you — who object to backpedaling on the protection of endangered species.

Ethical Tourism

Trophy hunting may be on the rise, but tourism can still be a force for good.

Consider a wildlife “viewing safari” sponsored by an environmentally responsible provider like the WWF partner Natural Habitat Adventures or National Geographic. However you travel, follow the guidelines for any wildlife area you visit.

Do not purchase tiger skins, claw or tooth jewelry, tiger whiskers, tiger bone wine, tiger meat, or any medicine that contains tiger derivatives. Don’t make exceptions for items labeled as “antiques.” They are still part of the illegal trade in endangered species. Contact TRAFFIC to report any wildlife products you find being sold illegally.

Feature photo by Poswiecie at Pixabay

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.