Dr. Herbert A. Raffaele - Chief, Division of International Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Conservation, joined me live from Busch Gardens to discuss the Save Vanishing Species stamp project and various ways we can help save endangered tigers and other wildlife from extinction.
Candace: Doctor, how did tigers become the most vulnerable species on the planet and can you discuss the challenges they face in the wild?
Dr. Herbert Raffaele: "Well, tigers have been endangered simply because of human population expansion into their natural range. So despite the fact that tigers once occurred throughout Asia, there were countless; hundreds of thousands of them, even 100 years ago. Less than 100 years ago there were 100,000. We're down to just a few thousand tigers. There are fewer tigers alive today than there were students in my high school when I was a kid, so the threat is simply that humans have expanded. The primary threat anyway is that humans have expanded into the habitat where tigers once lived and converted that habitat to something quite different and making it impossible for them to survive. There are other pressures as well, such as the illegal taking of tigers for medicinal purposes and so on; but the real basic threat has been abuse and elimination of their habitat."
Candace: How can we support the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation projects?
HR: "Well, there are several ways that the public can support U.S. Fish and Wildlife Conservation efforts; the broader program that we have is the Wildlife Without Borders program that tries to not only address the emergencies; the everyday problems that critically endangered species like tigers, and elephants, and rhinos, and great apes, and sea turtles face but also through avoiding the problems and preventing problems in the first place. As I said, different aspects of the Wildlife Without Borders program but what's special today is that a new stamp has come out; a stamp by the U.S. Postal Service that empowers Americans to paying an additional 11 cents to contribute, that 11 cents goes towards the conservation of these species so it's not a tax; this is Americans that care, who don't want to see these species become extinct on our watch to make a difference through this purchase and I want to mention that Busch Gardens SeaWorld has made this stamp their official stamp. There's a coalition of NGO's that widely support this and businesses (NGO's are non-governmental organizations and members of congress from both sides of the aisle) support it because it's something that most Americans believe in."
Candace: Is the stamp available at all post offices throughout the country?
HR: "The stamp is available at most post offices; I'm not sure that it's all but certainly all the larger post offices. Today (September 20, 2011) is the first day of issue, so it is a special day. A lot of people will be going to get their stamp with first day seals; so most post offices is my understanding will carry it and people should also look at tigerstamp.com, it's another way to obtain a stamp."
Candace: Do you have any additional information you'd like to share on this wonderful cause?
HR: "Well, what I think what's special here is that this is a unique opportunity, this is a very straightforward and simple way that Americans can make a difference and you know, I think most Americans if they were aware just what tragic circumstances elephants, and rhinos, and tigers, and great apes, and other critically endangered species; if Americans were aware of just how serious this situation was I know that they would want to make a difference. And this is a new opportunity; this is the first day the stamp will be on sale at least for the next two years. It's a way to step forward and say I care."
Candace: Where can we go for more information?
HR: "Tigerstamp.com is an excellent website where more information on the stamp can be obtained and and people interested in the broader program of the Fish and Wildlife Service can look at the Fish and Wildlife Services webpage and look for Wildlife Without Borders."