My Own Awareness
I love wild animals. I was lucky to have visited a number of countries in Africa and was able to go on many safaris. And in doing so I have seen a lot of wildlife. In the summer of 2012, when I was preparing for a trip to see the tiger, my favorite animal since childhood, I was absolutely shocked by all the stories, facts and forecasts that I read about tigers. ItTo me, it was so devastating that I decided to do something about it.
At first, I did not know how or what to do. In September 2012, I visited Ted-X, a congress about innovation. Manon Ossevoort, better known as ‘the tractor girl’ was one of the speakers. She had driven a tractor from Netherlands to Cape Town and her journey got quite a lot of publicity and exactly that element got me thinking about what to do.
What became increasingly clear to me was that people were unaware of the actual situation of tigers. An important precondition to save tigers is making people aware, which was mentioned a lot by many experts.
After a few months of floating in a kind of vacuum I decided in the winter of 2012 to carry out an awareness campaign. After six months of preparation I go traveling for six months to all countries where tigers once lived or where they still would be living to call attention to the plight of tigers.
I started sharing my idea with friends and acquaintances and slowly my plan began to take shape. To gain publicity, I was convinced the trip needed to be unique. That uniqueness turned out to be Tiger Trail, a journey through 31 countries where the tiger has ever lived and is still living. Nobody in the world had ever done such a journey. Also the journey would be covered online, real-time and multi media whenever that was possible. And moreover a journey that would not be without risks, given the many dangers that would be lurking in the dark.
From mid-May to mid-November 2013, I have undertaken an awareness campaign for the endangered tiger. This modern expedition aimed to make people more aware of situations where tigers are present (across the world). Together with a team of enthusiastic volunteers many activities were devised and implemented. Some activities have been successful, others not. The result? Tiger Trail has been under the attention of around a quarter of billion people, particularly in Asian countries. And besides Asia TigerTrail was also under the attention in the Netherlands but also in countries like Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
In the end I was not able to visit all 31 countries. Sometimes it was impossible because of planning. But most countries I have missed was because I was not able to get a visa. Some countries were just not so fond to welcome someone that wants to save tigers. Countries I had to skip are Iraq, Turkmenistan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Bhutan, North Korea and Pakistan. If you look at these countries, it is not a very strange thing that I was not able to get visa.
Also, initially I would go to Brunei as well. Before I left, it was unclear whether there were tigers on Borneo (and possibly in Brunei). It became clear while I was traveling that this was not the case so I’ve decided not to go to Brunei. So 31 countries became 30.
Stages of Journey
When I was preparing I decided to divide my trip into nine parts, focusing on the nine subspecies of tigers that have ever lived in all those countries.
Tiger Trail began in the area where the now extinct Caspian tiger once lived, the area around the Caspian Sea. Then I moved on to the area of the Amur tiger (that lives in Northeast China and the Russian Far East). I know there are still tigers living in North Korea as well, and therefore I wanted to go to that specific area. But this turned out to be impossible, because people told me later that in this specific area North Korea executes nuclear tests.
The South of China was next for visiting the area of the (also now critically endangered) South China tiger, before visiting countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, the hosts of the Indo-Chinese tiger.
After ‘Indo China’ I went to Indonesia where three tiger subspecies once lived (the Sumatran tiger (which is still there), the Balinese tiger and Javanese tiger).
And finally, I went to the area of the Bengal tiger (to countries like Bangladesh, India and Nepal).
During my trip, I visited many special tiger locations. I wanted to visit the region where the name of the tiger originates from (Iraq, the Tigris River), but that did not work out. I came across areas where special ‘reintroduction’ projects would have to take place (as Kazakhstan, Iran and South Korea) and I have visited all the areas where the five remaining tiger subspecies are still alive. Many have asked me if I was able to see all remaining tiger species in the wild, but that’s almost impossible. Tigers are very shy and in most areas you can’t find them. In the end I have seen all remaining six tiger species in one trip, five of them in zoos.
Also I have visited many locations where the tiger just does not belong, such as zoos, museums, tiger farms and black markets, where tigers are being sold.
Before and during Tiger Trail we did a large number of activities. Some of them have didn’t bring the success we hoped for. Yet we can say that these activities have contributed to Tiger Trail, which has been under the attention of some quarter of a billion (250 million) people, especially in Asia.
What kind of activities were carried?
- for singer-songwriters: who makes the new “eye of the tiger ‘?
- for illustrators and cartoonists: who makes the best cartoon about tigers?
- for models and photographers who best portrays the terrible situation of tigers from?
- There has been an appeal for world leaders in St Petersburg, Russia, that were attending the G20 summit.
- There was an educational program for students, aged between 8 and 12 years.
- There was a comic book about Thrimbo, a young tiger that has lost its mother and siblings.
- There were several mailings to media and other (potential) stakeholders.
- There were 2-3 blogs posted per week about Tiger Trail.
- In total some 500 posts have been posted on Facebook.
- Every day frequent tweets were done (on average about 10 times a day).
- A request was made for the Guinness Book of World Records.