Sometimes it's simply necessary to take a cuteness overload break. You just oh-so-casually slip from the task at hand to Googling for cute puppies, kittens, squirrels, chipmunks! Well, the San Diego Zoo has your next cuteness fix in their custody. The famous zoo is home to Malayan tigers, usually found in the forests of Malay Peninsula, the southern tip of Thailand, and Peninsular Malaysia. Two weeks ago, Malayan tiger cubs were born at the zoo, and this past weekend, they opened their eyes for the first time. Eeeeee!!
That's a pretty big landmark for these little guys, who still can't see very well (just shadows) and will spend the next two months inside their den, moving only to nurse and adjust. They're being raised by their 12-year-old mother (MTV should get on that), Mek Degong. Once they're about 3 months old, they'll make their public debut. Can I get a collective, "Awwww!"?
Unfortunately, there's a dreary side to the cubs' story ...
Malayan tigers are an endangered subspecies of tiger. There are only around 500 left in the wild, down from a population of more than 3,000 in the mid-nineteenth century! We have lost 97 percent of our wild tigers in THIS CENTURY. I don't know about you, but I find that really troubling.
I guess the problem is that the forest where they usually reside is often taken for agricultural purposes, which places farmers and tigers in direct contact; tigers that prey on livestock are often killed. Poaching is a huge problem too. Explains WWF-Malaysia field expert Mark Rayan Damaraj:
The rising numbers of poached tigers throughout tiger range countries is alarming and if measures are not taken to curb this short term threat now, it could very well escalate to cause local extinctions of populations in core tiger areas and thereby drive the species to extinction.
So, therein lies our dilemma, folks. We can't just take for granted that these majestic, gorgeous creatures will be around for our great-grandchildren to admire. Instead, we need to open our own eyes to the problem. Maybe consider what we can do to help the cause by learning more and donating to WWF or getting involved in some way. In this case, knowledge is most certainly power. Because, as Damaraj says:
As the level of public awareness increases there will be more room to lobby for improvement on wildlife conservation issues in Malaysia.
The San Diego Zoo, along with other zoos involved in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan, offers conservation and breeding plans for the tiger species. They deserve a major pat on the back for doing their part, but I can't help but think we can do our part too. If you're interested in more info, you can check out the Save the Tiger Fund or the WWF.
Are you inspired to help save the tigers?
Image via SanDiegoZoo.org