The Asian medicine and luxury markets’ demand for animal body parts drives the poaching of big cats across their ranges. Tigers and leopards are killed for their skin, bones, brain, penis, testes, whiskers, skin and claws. Almost every part of the tiger is wrongly believed to be a cure for a host of illnesses that range from serious to mundane and even bizarre: arthritis, malaria, rabies, laziness, pimples, evil spirits, impotency and fever caused by ghosts. Body parts of the leopard and the lion are also sold as tiger parts. China and Vietnam are considered to be the main markets for big cat body parts, though other Southeast Asian countries also play a role. There is a massive pet market of tigers in both the USA and Middle East. It is believed that there are many more tigers being illegally kept in captivity than there are in the wild.
In honour of Wildlife Week, let’s renew our pledge to conserve India’s big cats in their natural habitats. For in doing so, we will have conserved all the wonderful life forms that call these forests, scrublands, grasslands and mangrove swamps home.