This week 13 countries convene to discuss the fate of the tiger. One of the most beautiful, charismatic and iconic animals on earth, they are a dwindled species fighting for existence. Some experts estimate tigers will only survive in their natural, wild habitats for another 12 years after which point, sadly, the only ones on earth will live in cages.
The issue of tiger extinction is incredibly complex. From poachers looking to make a living, to societies who create demand for tiger parts for medicinal or social reasons, to the shrinking space these creatures have to roam; they are a species under assault from many directions. Worst of all, there is no clear answer for how best to stop their rapid decline.
As I learned on a recent trip to Ranthambhore preserve in India, capitalists there view the Tiger as a nuisance to industrial growth. Many don't want a tiger in their backyard. The majority of locals lack a much needed emotional connection to the animals of their jungles, because it is only the wealthy who can afford to view them on safari. Through steel traps, poisoned meat, electrocution and rifles, tigers are laid to rest while those with the bloody hands- from the poachers to the people buying tiger parts -- escape legal persecution or the public scorn needed to help turn the tide.
I recently interviewed Belinda Wright, founder of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and an award winning pioneer in the fight to save the tigers of India. Here are some excerpts from that interview with footage of the magical creatures.