On his "Tiger Trail", Dutch photographer Chris Slappendel calls out the plight of the wild cat

This is the story of the Dutch photographer Chris Slappendel and his Tiger Trail

Imagine this: you love wildlife, you have been on many safaris and your biggest wish is to see the tiger in its natural habitat. A year later you’re preparing yourself to cover a distance of 100.000 kilometers, you’re going to visit all the countries where the tiger lives or used to live. All to gain extra attention for the sad story of the severely threatened tiger. 

This is the story of the Dutch photographer Chris Slappendel.

Tomorrow, May 15th, he’s going to start his "TigerTrail". Last year Chris was planning a trip to see a wild tiger. He did some research and found out more and more shocking facts about wild tigers.

  • One hundred years ago there were 100.000 tigers in Asia. In 2000 there were 6000. Now, in 2013, only 2500 are left.
  • There are 9 subspecies of tigers, only 5 remain today.
  • In the past years the tiger has lost 93% of its natural habitat.
  • The 31 countries Chris is going to visit, had 1 billion citizens in 1900. Now there are almost 4 billion citizens.

Chris decided that everyone should hear the tigers' story.

The tiger has to be saved, so future generations can also admire this wonderful creature. Slowly Chris developed the idea of a journey completely dedicated to the tiger.

And tomorrow Chris will start on his TigerTrail.

During 6 months he’s going to visit the 31 countries where the tiger lives or used to live. He will start at the Caspian Sea, via China, Siberia, North-Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal to Pakistan.

His will be a very busy trip. Chris is going to search for the five remaining subspecies. He’s also going to visit reintroduction projects, as well as a few IFAW-projects, where we go out of our way to protect the tiger.

He will also visit zoos, museums, breeding centers and black markets. All the places where tigers don’t belong. Between his travels and visits, Chris will give lectures and interviews and press conferences in Russia, Georgia, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan with some already scheduled.

There are only 13 countries left where you can see the severely threatened tiger in its natural habitat and that habitat continues to shrink; making it harder every day for tigers to find food and so their populations continue to decrease, so inbreeding is very common.

On top of those threats, the tiger has a lot to fear from humans as well. In countries such as China, Korea and Vietnam, people still believe in the medicinal powers of tiger bones.

Officially the trade in tiger products is strictly prohibited, but there’s a lively black market for parts of the tiger used in medicines, clothes and for furniture. Every year more than 20 billion dollars are spent in those markets. For a bottle of ‘healing’ tiger bone wine, you’ll be charged an amount between $200 and $1,500 dollars.

Unfortunately for the tiger, possession of an aspect of the wild the species is still seen as a status symbol.

A male tiger walks a trail every day. In a month he can walk a distance up to 1000 kilometers. Chris will travel 100.000 kilometers in 6 months to make people aware of the tragic story of the tiger.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare supports Chris: the story of the tiger must be shared so we can save this beautiful animal. We’re very proud to support Chris during his journey, our international colleagues will give him a very warm welcome.

We wish him all the luck!

We will keep you posted on the TigerTrail through our website. 

-- Arien van der Heijden

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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