Environment Forum

Backyard tigers

ENVIRONMENT-TIGERS/Would you keep a tiger as a pet?

A puppy-sized tiger cub can be bought in the United States for as little as $200, and there are probably about 5,000 such backyard tigers across the country, about the same number of privately owned tigers in China, according to World Wildlife Fund.

That is far greater than the approximately 3,200 wild tigers worldwide, compared to the estimated 100,000 wild tigers a century ago. The growing number of these animals in captivity poses a threat to the species in the wild, WWF reports.

“People don’t realize when they buy a $200 tiger cub that it grows into a full-grown tiger, which means a huge enclosure and costs about $5000 a year just to feed,” says Leigh Henry, an animal conservation expert at WWF. “So you end up with a lot of unwanted animals that are very poorly regulated.”

These unwanted animals are a potent lure to poachers, who can use parts and products from these backyard tigers to sell on the lucrative black market. Because many of these beasts are untraceable — it can be tougher to adopt a dog from a U.S. animal shelter than to sell a privately owned tiger — many wind up in Asia, where tiger parts and products are used in traditional medicine.

The trade in these unwanted privately owned tigers can threaten wild tigers by feeding the market, Henry says.

Crustaceans rule!

Mex_00-hrEver wondered what kinds of wildlife dominate the world’s seas and oceans? Now there’s an answer, at least in terms of the number of species in different categories. It’s not fish. It’s not mammals. It’s crustaceans!

A mammoth Census of Marine Life has revealed that nearly one-fifth, or 19 percent, of all the marine species known to humans are crustaceans — crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, barnacles and others far too numerous to mention here. The census didn’t count the actual numbers of animals beneath the waves — that would have been impossible — but it did count up the number of species in 25 marine areas. The aim is to set down a biodiversity baseline for future use.

Car_00-hrIt took 360 scientists to figure this out. Their findings were posted on Monday in PLoS ONE, an open-source peer-reviewed online scientific journal. An even more fulsome list will be out in October.

Good news on the dolphin front

Good news on the marine front is about as rare as these days as a Grand Banks’ cod.

 So it’s nice to be able to report that scientists have discovered a bigger than expected population of one of the world’s most endangered species of marine mammals — the Irrawaddy dolphin.

Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society announced this week that they estimated there were nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins living in freshwater regions of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest and adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal.

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