新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè / Happy New Year
It’s 2022 and Monday, January the 31st sees rockets zipping into the air, exploding into slivers of shimmering silvers and reds.
恭喜发财 gōng xǐ fā cái / happiness and prosperity
Children and adults play with firecrackers, and light spinning fireworks on the ground. Bang after boom echo and fill the smokey night air loud and long. The air wreaks of chemicals and smoke, remaining lit and shrouded by reactions, collision after crashing explosion. The onslaught, a man-made destruction of fresh air to celebrate a new year. A temporary volcanic blast of colourful joy.
虎年大吉 hǔ nián dà jí / Wishing you luck in the year of the Tiger!
The tiger (虎 hǔ) , faced with extinction, is third of twelve on the Chinese zodiac. Lucky colours in this wood tiger year include grey, white, blue, purple, orange, and black. We’re supposed to avoid gold, silver, brown and pink. The largest living cat species, Panthera tigris, is a critically endangered is an apex predator. This vertically striped beast has a hugely fragmented territory now, enjoying protection in parts of India and Russia. This macrofauna remains popular in culture, sports and at conservation parks globally.
Tigers have featured in folklore and mythology for countless years. The national animal of South Korea has little documented evidence that it is still present there, yet like many countries the symbolic value of the tiger remains powerful. Last official estimates show there to be less than fifty tigers wild in China. The anti-pest campaigns of the 1950s have decimated the genetic breeding populations. However, laws and regulations since 1993 have been strengthened. Sadly, traditional medicine still remains a threat. Bloody English game hunters wiped thousands out and to this day man-hunter tigers are often eliminated.
Zoos aren’t always as they seem. Many in Asia lack genetically valuable breeding specimens. Generations of inbreeding and circus or posing animals have weakened a vulnerable captive breeding population. Bluntly putting it, the tiger’s future is on its last legs. Fragmented habitat, poaching, habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict, and medicinal beliefs put tigers firmly in the negative zone for the future. Globally there could be 5495 tigers in the wild. Or less. So, let’s hope the Year of the Tiger brings prosperity to the giant feline. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi softened tiger images, whilst Tigger in Winnie the Pooh hasn’t done so bad.
‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?’ – Tyger, a poem by William Blake
This year of 2022 will be haunted by COVID-19 and climate change, global differences and financial crisis. The bright sparks in the darkness include the Hunchun Reserve (珲春国家级自然保护区) and the South African Laohu Valley Reserve for South China tigers (Panthera tigris tigris). Li Quan (全莉) has been deeply involved in trying to rewild South China with tigers.
虎运连年 hǔ yùn lián nián / Wishing you the luck of the Tiger year after year!
Make note: 29th July 2022 – Global Tiger Day