Should humans let tigers go extinct?
NOTE: We are only talking about the preservation/extinction of tigers. We aren't talking about whales, bees, or anything like that.
I am not a supporter of hunting rare animals for sport. I'm also not someone who doesn't care about the environment.
However, why are we really protecting animals like tigers? Are we doing it for ourselves and to make ourselves feel better? Or are we doing it for the animals? What would happen if the tigers really went extinct?
Altruism is unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1). This means that you would save, for example, this species even though you, yourself, aren't affected by their absence. What are your motives then? Just doing the right thing?
For a while now, scientists have questioned the reason we help others. Some scientists say that we help others in distress because we ourselves feel distress through fear, shock, sadness, guilt and similar emotions. The only way we can think of to disperse the distress we feel is by alleviating theirs. So our motives aren't to actually make them feel better, it's to make ourselves feel better. (2)
Isn't it similar with tigers, though? We know that we are the reason that they are going extinct and that there are only 3,200 left in the world. (3) Even the World Wildlife Foundation can't come up with a better reason for protecting them other than stating that it helps the people of the area because then tourists will go there. (3) This is just more proof from a site that is trying to save tigers that the reason why we should do it is for ourselves. Panda.org has a handful of reason as to why we should save them but two of five of them are for ourselves. (4) We should protect tigers because protecting them is protecting the area they live in where we get clean resources. Why not protect the forest, then? Why tigers? They also state tourism like WWF did.
What happens if they go extinct? Nothing really happened when the Javan or the Bali tiger died. People kept on living and in fact, thrived. The Indonesian island called Java that they were from had a triple population increase. (5)
How do you think your life will change if the tigers went extinct? People want to save tigers out of guilt and not because that it's something they just want to do. There are other species that need protecting but the tigers get a lot of attention even among their cousins like the lion. The world will keep on moving when the tiger is gone. Even with minor reprocussions of their disappearance, the world will survive without them.
I believe that we might as well stop preserving them. The less attention we give them, the less thrill poachers may feel about them. Then again, they may feel that it'll be easier to get away with. According to the North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association (NAWEOA), poachers are in it for hides, skins, medicine, clothing, jewelry, pets and most importantly for trophies and the thrill of it. (6) If we stopped caring, maybe they would to. It wouldn't be a forbidden fruit anymore. Even if that plan backfires, who cares? Another one bites the dust.
(5) Seidensticker, J. (1986). Large Carnivores and the Consequences of Habitat Insularization: Ecology and Conservation of Tigers in Indonesia and Bangladesh.Pages 1−42 in: Miller, S.D., Everett, D.D. (eds.) Cats of the world: biology, conservation and management. National Wildlife Federation, Washington DC.
Did you ever hear of that case where the wolves were taken out of the Yellowstone national park. No research indicated that it would hurt, and in fact it was thought to have a good impact. Without the predator other species would thrive better. But without that one species the entire ecosystem fell apart. Overgrazing occurred, coyotes increased and caused other species to suffer. It really hurt the environment in a lot of ways. When they reintroduced the wolf the ecosystem started healing. Now let's compare this to the tigers.
In the first case scientists weren't sure what would happen, and thought it would benefit the park. In this case research has been done, and scientists believe that it would hurt the environment greatly. And the effects also hurt humans. Here are some of the effects.
1. Removing tigers disturbs the ecosystem
Tigers are considered at the top of the food chain wherever they live. They keep prey species in check. Prey species breed extensively to keep their population high, but without their predators the prey will over breed. Too many prey species leads to overgrazing. Typically prey species are grazers, so when overgrazing occurs vegetation will become less and less. Less vegetation means insects and smaller creatures are left with very little to survive with. Therefore in their search for food they would likely go to farms, with food and shelter. Except that food is blasted with insecticides usually, and if they aren't they will be after insects get to it. This will extinct many of the said species. Or worse it could result in insecticide resistant insects which would upset the agriculture there. And don't say it is a slim possibility, because it is already happening here in america. Fish in the Hudson are becoming pollution resistant. Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Insects are becoming resistant to insects. This would be pretty devastating to Africa. Also little vegetation results in poor soil, which results in fewer plants. Which would undo the entire ecosystem since plants provide food for all living things on earth. All energy found in animals was once in plants. This is devastating to nature by the simple act of letting one specie die off.
2. Poachers will simply move on once tigers die
Poachers will move on when tigers die off. They moved on to the Sumatran tiger after the Bali and Javan tiger went extinct. What will they turn to next? How will that next species extinction affect the environment? These are important questions because of the fact that we don't know.
3. Climate changes
Like I said before the removal of tigers could result in much of the vegetation being lost. Loss of vegetation would result in less CO2 consumption by plants. I admit, this wouldn't be that bad since vegetation doesn't take out that much in that small area. But if we let tigers die out what's to say we can't do the same to other species? Therefore it would be a bit more widespread.
A couple sites that agree with me:
Now for some rebuttals to some of your points:
1. Why do we care? We only help to make ourselves feel better
So why can't we make ourselves feel better? If it makes you feel good then go on doing what makes you feel good, so long as it is not illegal. And I would say that it doesn't matter if we want to make ourselves feel better, as long as it helps the other party (in this case the tigers), and saving them would probably make them feel better. This entire thing seems more like a treatise on human nature than why we shouldn't save the tigers.
2. WWF can't come up with a good enough reason for us to benefit
I've already stated what consequences humans can expect if we get rid of tigers. Link #3 is more a description on tigers, and their reasons for protecting them are more of a tug on the heartstrings than why humans would face consequences. The one about fresh water means that without tigers certain ecological effects would happen, until the forest becomes a much different place. This is not certain, but the possibility is real enough to worry others.
3. Bali and Javan extinction did not hurt humans
I cannot comment, because I simply cannot find any information on it. I do not own the book you get your information either.
4. Life wouldn't be affected
Maybe not for you or me living in America far away from the tiger. But what about African nations that will suffer from the ecological consequences I have already pointed out? This shows disrespect for your fellow human beings.
5. Poachers are in it for the thrill
The site you use as evidence states all the same reasons you do as to why poachers poach. Yet it never emphasizes that poachers do it most importantly for the thrill. It states
"Some animals are captured live and used in the pet, falconry, or live trophy animal trade. Some people poach because of deeply rooted beliefs that these activities are acceptable. Some poach just for the thrill of it."
SOME poach just for the thrill of it. However the economic benefits make it so much more tempting. It provides great money for one tiger. If we make it illegal and strictly enforce poaching we will make it less tempting because risks outweigh benefits. Therefore it makes no sense to get rid of risk. No risk, but lots of benefits? They would die out pretty fast. And I have already provided reasons as to why it is not "another one bites the dust," so thank you.
Thank you for your time.
--"]Insects are becoming resistant to insects. This would be pretty devastating to Africa."
--"But what about African nations that will suffer from the ecological consequences I have already pointed out?"
First of all, I'd like to point out that tigers don't live in Africa. They live in Asia. http://awsassets.panda.org...
Second, grey wolves are different than tigers. Grey wolves are in such abundance that they're considered a pest in some areas. They are considered "Least Concern" according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are more wolves in Alaska (over 7,000) than there are tigers in the world. The total around the world for wolves is over 185,000 that doesn't include the Middle East which doesn't participate in the studies. That also doesn't include the wolves in zoos or hybrids.
You also show examples of when wolves were taken out of Yellowstone but that's a totally different climate with totally different animals. Tigers have already dwindled down to a few thousand and nothing has changed. You also forget that tigers aren't the only things in their habitats that are the top predators. You have wolves that you've mentioned before, bears (Asian Black, Sloth, and Ussuri Brown), leopards (Indian, Amur, North Chinese, Indochinese, Sri Lankan, Clouded, etc), binturong, Asian Palm Civet, Spotted Linsang, crocodiles, alligators, caimans, gharials, and predatory birds of various types.
Humans already hunt and control the populations of many of those prey species you are talking about. Don't forget that their habitat is threatened, as well. With their land dwindling, so will their numbers. If they continue to thrive while their land is shrinking, humans will take care of them when they start becoming a pest. They're already hunted regularly becaue things like "velvet antler" is a common ingredient in Chinese folk medicine. I think you underestimate the human's ability to control animal populations. We do it all the time with white-tail deer, moose, elk, etc. The human population in the East is large enough to enable our hunting season rules, accomodations, and routines to do this with efficiency.
There is also no evidence to say that these populations wouldn't become a problem even if we brought the tigers back up to their previous population. Top predators like tigers, lions, bears, wolves, and the like aren't greatly populated in the first place. If they were brought back up to the populations of say... wolves (since you seem to be a large fan of them), that not only could threaten the predatory species but it could also (and has previously been) become a threat to humans, as well.
Your first point offers that Grey wolves are not facing extinction, and not similar to tigers anyway. The anecdote of the wolf was not meant to show what happens to extinct animals, but to what happens to an environment when a top predator is taken out. You also say that the climate and animals are so different that it doesn't pertain to tigers. However all life on Earth follow patterns typically. For example, strong usually outlive weaker animals. When we take out top predators we can expect a certain pattern to show among animals. You also note that even without tigers we still have other predators that will hunt prey species. However you can say the exact same thing about the incident with the wolves. Bobcats, coyotes, bears, and mountain lions. Therefore both situations were fairly similar.
You say that if the elks thrive without predators we would be able to hunt them down to size. But what incentive do they have to hunt them more than they do already? They won't become much of a pest for humans, because of the simple fact that any that came close would probably get killed, because they can. Also the fact that you admit that the environment is shrinking for all animals, which is all the more reason not to take risks in harming the environment more.
Your last point is saying that I believe we should bring populations up to the size of wolves. That is not what I believe, since it would be harmful for them to overpopulate as well. I don't even care if they come up the their previous population. Just prevent the depopulation of them further.
Thanks for this debate!
And yes I like wolves, but I'm actually a bigger fan of foxes.