Tiger, tiger, burning bright*

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Since yesterday’s post was a bit of a depressing one (and there’s the understatement of the year), today’s will be a bit lighter. It seems that I missed out on marking International Tiger Day, which falls on 29th July.

And as a special news item, apparently just to add sparkle to the day, the tiger population in Nepal has increased by 63% since 2009. This is great news, although these glorious iconic beasts are still in danger, from habitat destruction, poaching, and a loss of variety in potential mates.

Why do we care? Well, it’s not just because they’re beautiful, or because we think every creature has a right to exist (although I do) or even because we’re soft-hearted tree-huggers (although I am). It’s because they play a vital part in the ecosystem: as apex predators at the top of the food chain, they keep prey species healthy by preying on the weakest members. Without apex predators, prey species can decrease or die out altogether, leading to population explosions in populations lower down the food chain, and so on. This is known as a top-down trophic cascade: I gave a classic example in this post on sharks. So we need apex predators to keep ecosystems in balance.

And apparently, in a complete segue, they’re partial to Calvin Klein’s Obsession (thanks to Sofia and Nick from WildlifeTV for the tip). The folks at Big Cat Rescue, who do sterling work, have a short video showing just how a variety of big cats respond – consider this your dose of cute for the day (albeit huge, clawed, cute).

* Title is the first line of the William Blake poem The Tyger

[Featured image: Swimming Malayan Tiger in Dortmund zoological garden. Image by Hans Stieglitz, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0]


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