Last Sunday, September 24th, thousands of schoolchildren celebrated Tiger Day in Valdivostok, Russia. The annual event is organized by local governments in partnership with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Phoenix Foundation, the Amur branch of WWF, AMUR Fund, and corporate sponsors. It was started in 2000, and it always takes place on the last Sunday in September.
The day is recognized throughout the Primorsky region, home to 300-400 Siberian tigers, the last in the world. This year, the IFAW expanded the celebration via video messages from children in 13 countries, in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of the big cats. Due to poaching and habitat loss, the worldwide population of wild tigers has plummeted from a hundred thousand to estimates of as few as three thousand.
Fittingly, or perhaps ironically as they approach extinction, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, as well as the UN International Year of Biodiversity. This November, Russia is hosting a Global Tiger Summit to call leaders to action and announce plans with specific and executable goals aimed at preventing the loss of this majestic species. IFAW is already making progress, by training anti-poaching squads in Russia and India, by working to close down the international black market for tiger body parts, and by helping to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and injured wild tigers. However, they can’t do it all, and, as Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia says,"Tiger Day is a holiday for all, which reminds us that the future of tigers is in our own hands."
Calvin without Hobbes? Pooh without Tigger? Frosted Flakes without Tony? Who would want to live in such a world?! Happy Belated Tiger Day – hopefully we can celebrate them for years to come.
Photo credit: IFAW