Jul 292015


International Tiger Day, also known as Global Tiger Day, is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, held annually on 29 July. It was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues. For more information go to:



The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to 3.38 m (11.1 ft) and can weigh up to 388.7 kg (857 lb) in the wild. Its most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with a lighter underside. The species is classified in the genus Panthera with the lion, leopard, jaguar and snow leopard. Tigers are apex predators (top of the food chain), primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, meaning that they are usually solitary but have some social traits. Adult males are usually fiercely territorial but on occasion will allow other males to enter their territory provided they are submissive. Females often have somewhat overlapping territories. Tigers require large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey needs. This, coupled with the fact that they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on Earth, has caused significant conflicts with humans.


Tigers once ranged widely across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years, they have lost 93% of their historic range, and have been eliminated from southwest and central Asia, from the islands of Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Today, they range from the Siberian taiga to open grasslands and tropical mangrove swamps. The remaining six tiger subspecies have been classified as endangered by IUCN. The global population in the wild is estimated to number between 3,062 and 3,948 individuals, down from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century, with most remaining populations occurring in small pockets isolated from each other, of which about 2,000 exist on the Indian subcontinent. Major reasons for population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, and poaching. The extent of area occupied by tigers is estimated at less than 1,184,911 km2 (457,497 sq mi), a 41% decline from the area estimated in the mid-1990s.


Tigers are among the most recognizable and popular of the world’s megafauna. They have featured prominently in ancient legends and folklore, and continue to be depicted in modern films, advertizing, and literature. They appear on many flags, coats of arms, and as mascots for sporting teams. The tiger is the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea.

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Of great importance in Chinese culture, the Tiger is one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Also in various Chinese art and martial art, the tiger is depicted as an earth symbol and equal rival of the Chinese dragon – the two representing matter and spirit respectively. The White Tiger (Chinese: 白虎; pinyin: Bái Hǔ) is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. It is sometimes called the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎), and it represents the west and the autumn season.

The tiger replaces the lion as king of the beasts in cultures of eastern Asia, representing royalty, fearlessness and wrath. In Chinese children stories, it is often said that the stripes on a tiger’s forehead represent the character 王 (“king”).


Some Asian cultures that celebrated tiger worship in the past still practice forms of it. In the suburbs of Kunming, where I live in China, there is a tourist attraction where the tiger worship of the Yi minority is displayed for tourists. This takes place in Solar Calendar Square (complete with a growling tiger statue, five meters high). In Chuxiong there is a similar attraction. A tiger totem ritual is presented for tourists; the ritual portrays the Yi belief that the tiger set the entire world in motion. A tiger dance is also performed at such places explaining the history of the Yi and their worship of tigers.

Along with these tourist attractions that display historical practices of the Yi, there is also archeological evidence for tiger worship in Yunnan. Tigers were found depicted on small stones. These stones were pierced and worn as amulets, suggesting that the tiger had a certain power of protection for its wearer. The Queen Mother deity of the west, Hsi Wang Mu, sometimes possessed the tail of a tiger in her depictions and, like the tiger, was associated with the mountains . The tiger was also a deity for both the Tungus and the Black Pottery people.

In many parts of Vietnam, the tiger is a revered creature. Some villages have a tiger temple. Tigers are admired for their great strength, ferocity and grace. The tiger is also considered a guardian deity. Tiger statutes are usually seen at the entrance of temples and palaces, keeping evil spirits from entering those places.


The tiger is associated with the Hindu deities Shiva and Durga. In Pokhara, Nepal the tiger festival is known as Bagh Jatra. Celebrants dance disguised as tigers and are “hunted”. The Warli of Maharashtra in India worship Waghia the lord of tigers in the form of a shapeless stone.

The slang for “so-so” in Kunming dialect is 马马虎虎 (horse horse tiger tiger). Don’t ask me why.


For a recipe I have chosen a Thai dish of sliced barbecued steak with a hot dipping sauce known as Crying Tiger. I’ve had it several times in Kunming cooked by Dai chefs. It’s easy enough to make as long as you follow the recipe for the dipping sauce precisely. You might find powdered roast rice difficult to find, but it’s easy to make. Scatter raw rice grains in a dryheavy skillet and toast them over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they take on color. Then grind them to a powder in a food processor or blender. Here’s an authentic recipe.


You can serve the steak hot with rice, or cold over salad greens with a little of the sauce on the greens.