Well, not complete extinction. Obviously tigers will continue to exist in Las Vegas for many years to come. And in Asia there are so many backstreet big cat farms that they outnumber cows. But they will cease to exist in the wild.
Right. And what are we supposed to do, exactly? Send an international force tooled up with the latest night-vision gear and helicopter gunships to hunt down and kill the poachers?
Really? And what are these mercenaries supposed to say to the locals? “Yes, I realise that you have no fresh water, no healthcare, little food and that your ox is broken, but we are not here to do anything about that. In fact we’re going to put an end to the only industry you have.”
Yes, say the conservationists, who argue that unless this is done now our children will grow up never being able to see a tiger in the wild. And that this is very sad.
Is it? I have never seen a duckbilled platypus in the wild or a rattlesnake. I’ve never seen any number of creatures that I know to exist. So why should I care if my children never see a tiger? In fact, come to think of it, if they’re on a gap year trekking through the jungles of Burma I fervently hope they don’t.
There’s an awful lot of sentimentality around the concept of extinction. We have a sense that when a species dies out we should all fall to our knees and spend some time wailing. But why? Apart from for a few impotent middle-class Chinamen, or if you want a nice rug, it makes not the slightest bit of difference if Johnny tiger dies out. It won’t upset our power supplies or heal the rift with Russia. It is as irrelevant as the death of a faraway