Tigers have been enigmatic symbols of power, beauty, stealth, strength and survival in Asian cultures and wilderness for centuries. More recently, the world’s largest cat has been celebrated on International Tiger Day, held annually on July 29.
International Tiger Day (also known as Global Tiger Day or World Tiger Day) was created in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. The goal of International Tiger Day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness of, and support for, tiger conservation efforts.
In honor of International Tiger Day 2012, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington is hosting a July 29 event to introduce visitors to the zoo’s three Sumatran tigers. The tigers will receive special treats from their zookeepers, and visitors can ask questions about the cats. Zoo scientists will also be on hand to show visitors the tools they use to study tigers in the wild.
Conservation efforts are critical, say scientists, because tiger populations have undergone a steep decline over the past century. After decades of poaching and habitat loss, tigers number no more than 3,200 in the wild today. For more than 40 years, Smithsonian scientists have been working with international colleagues to help save these endangered animals.