Trophy hunting, which was widely practised during the colonial period of the 19th and 20th century, is the main factor responsible for the disappearance of a large proportion of the tiger population.
Tiger hunting was highly appreciated by settlers and maharajahs. They participated in the sport purely for pleasure, but it was also used as a means of exterminating felines from regions that were about to be colonized, and “protecting” local communities from conflicts with tigers. Indeed, tigers were regarded as cruel, man-eating beasts. The animal inspired fear in the population, and killing it was a sign of prestige and glory.
By the 1960s, when the international community first became aware that the tiger was disappearing, the situation had already reached tipping point for the survival of the species. India was at the forefront of tiger protection, launching many initiatives such as designating protected areas and introducing a ban on tiger hunting, as early as 1970. Other countries where the feline lived, such as Russia, adopted a similar approach.
However, poaching, linked to the demand for skins and other parts of the feline’s body used in Asian traditional medicine, as well as deforestation, have led to further reductions in the population of this emblematic animal. Today, tiger hunting is forbidden in every country where it still lives and many safeguarding efforts are undertaken by governments and organisations like Awely.