It was an amazing four-day conference that took place in St. Petersburg, Russia last week, where representatives of 13 countries, including five prime ministers, met to agree on five-year programs and measures and US$330 million in funds to save one animal, the tiger.
That such high-level attention should be paid to saving the tiger is testimony not only to the special place many cultures accord the tiger for its beauty, power and symbolic values invested in it. It also manifests an understanding of the responsibility human beings must take for their behavior, too often damaging, towards other living creatures.
Only 3200 tigers are left in those 13 countries, from a population of about 100,000 a hundred years ago.
Human beings have crowded them out of their historic habitats, leaving them only seven percent of the areas where they formerly roamed and lived. Along with habitat loss, poaching and illegal trade continue to diminish their numbers.
The fierce and majestic beauty of tigers commands attention, and certain other animals like whales or dolphins or elephants find campaigners to work for their protection.
Just a few days ago, a news clip showed turtles being protectively watched as they made their way safely into the sea in Morong, Bataan, and of course, there’s the Philippine eagle that is given special status and hopefully looked after.
There are some “stars” in the animal world, it would seem from our attitudes and behavior, among the general population, there’s much less concern about other living creatures.
Irresponsible consumption by too large human populations has led to the loss or serious decline of fish stocks such as cod and tuna.
In my own neighborhood, boys will still shoot bats or the few lovely blue birds left, for the fun of the hunt and to eat them.
Food is the great excuse for much animal cruelty, as is sport. But sheer animal cruelty can take shocking form as in an incident told of a local politician aspiring to high office who in a rage, tied to a vehicle and dragged a “trespassing” cow to its death.
Neglect probably characterizes the usual behavior towards the ordinary domestic animal. I found my dog over a year ago in a canal, a flea-ridden puppy whose skeletal mother was tied with three feet of rope to a dirty shed.
When I walk her today, we still see many dogs whose entire lives are lived within the area allowed by three feet of rope.
A lawyer friend in Cebu works with an animal welfare outfit that can be contacted at [email protected] and that does animal rights education and litigation, if necessary, to apply existing national law, and to move people towards more enlightened and respectful attitudes and behavior with regards to our fellow living creatures. It would seem that we could use such an outfit in this province.
At least the tiger may be assured of protection, even the World Bank has a “Global Tiger Initiative.” One of the targets set at the recent St. Petersburg international forum is to double the number of tigers by 2022.
Looking at the pictures accompanying the news reports makes one realize again that every single tiger is more magnificently beautiful than most human beings and that their space on this earth must be assured.