Does it matter if the tiger goes extinct?

The tiger: a symbol of spirituality, fear, dominance, beauty, death, wilderness, terror and awe.  Tigers have been present in human lives ever since early Hominids wandered into their territories many tens of thousands of years ago.  And since then, human-tiger conflict has occurred, where tigers ate people or their livestock and people killed tigers and their prey.

 Tigers have also been regarded as commodities: medicine, fashion, furniture and trophies (adorned on the wall either stuffed or in a photo).  Thus they appear to have great value to us, especially now they are rare.  Being rare, however, could mean their ultimate demise, as the law of economics states that the fewer items available (their supply) and their high demand raises the price, which spurs on further exploitation until extinction.
 But here's a question: does it even matter if the tiger goes extinct?  Indeed, the species has been extirpated (removed) from vast tracts of its previous range and the world hasn't ended.  If the last tiger were killed, like the thylacine (Tasmanian wolf), humans have an immaculate ability to continue on - as does the rest of the planet.
 Large carnivores have been removed from most of the world, but life continues.  The UK, for example (where I am from) used to be home to wolves, bears and lynx, but since they were all wiped out many moons ago, nothing much appears to have changed.  Yes we have more deer in Scotland than we might have should these predators be put back into our ecosystem; yes the smaller carnivores such as badgers and foxes may have increased a bit in number, but on the whole, life ticks on.
 I must point out that I am in no way promoting the idea that we should just sit back and wait for the tiger, or any other species for that matter, to be snuffed out, but what I am trying to do is raise the notion that maybe us conservationists may not have much clout in a human world filled with poverty, disease, inequality, dwindling resources, competition and other worries that may, to most people, be far more pressing than the far-off concept that some aloof species that they've never encountered face-to-face might some day not be with us any more (or indeed for the people living side-by-side with these livestock-killing animals who threaten their livelihoods and families).
Morally, us conservationists may think we have the upper hand; "but these predators belong on earth, they are valued intrinsically, they have monetary worth, they are keystone species".  That may be true, but history can attest to the fact that life for the rest of us will continue to tick along should the tiger not be here any longer.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Styes, sleepless nights and swear words

Against trophy hunting but a meat-eater = hypocrite?

How Human-Animal Studies can help us coexist with carnivores