Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Two critically endangered Sumatran tigers were born earlier this month at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Hooray! Tigers breed in captivity. Not new. Not helpful.
Two more tigers sentenced to a life of imprisonment, living in captivity. Two tigers, unable to contribute to the survival of their species in the wild, where they belong. What is in store for these two little tiger cubs? According to the Washington Post, they will spend the next four months indoors. Not quite what nature intended. They could stay in D.C. or head to another zoo, crated and shipped off to partner ‘breeding programs’ around the country. An uncertain future indeed. What is certain is that they will be confined for the rest of their lives. They will face boredom and environmental deprivation, perhaps grow lazy from lack of stimuli, or develop health problems, like arthritis. Downright disrespectful for such a magnificent and rare species.
Two tigers to entertain our fleeting, if not gawking, interest.
The Sumatran tiger is a subspecies of tiger native to the island of Sumatra, in western Indonesia, where only 400-500 individuals remain. Populations have dwindled in many parts of Asia due to habitat loss, and illegal hunting and poaching driven by the commercial demand for tiger parts including bones, skin, and internal organs. Tiger skin rug. Tiger bone wine.
Born Free works with our partners in the tiger’s natural range to combat these threats through stronger enforcement of laws, stricter implementation of trade agreements, enhancement of protected areas, deploying rangers and anti-poaching teams, and working to educate the general public about the need to conserve the tiger.
With approximately 210 Sumatran tigers living in zoos around the world (and, now, the birth of two more), it seems that some of us are too proud of our captive breeding “achievements” to realize the negligible positive impact such breeding provides. Can we really consider ourselves the saviors of a species when we force its young into a life of concrete walls and steel fences? Artifice, not nature.
Rather than breeding more Sumatran tigers into bleak captivity, we must refocus our efforts on protecting them in their natural habitat. If we do not act soon, there will be no more Sumatran tigers in the wild. The only Sumatran tigers left will be the ones in captivity, spread haphazardly throughout cities across America, languishing in the cells they’ve been confined to since birth.
That’s not real conservation. That’s not compassionate conservation. That’s just proving that we can catch a tiger by the tail.