Few creatures are more charismatic than tigers. Big, beautiful, and powerfully ferocious, tigers embody traits that captivate people immediately — whether we like to admit it or not. That attraction has become their ruin. As writer Sharon Guynup and photographer Steve Winter chronicle in their book Tigers Forever, the skyrocketing market for tiger parts in China has fast-tracked their demise. Fewer than 3,200 tigers now remain in the wild. In an interview for The Washington Post, Sharon and Steve shared with me their adventures in Asia documenting threats to wild tigers and their fears of a future without them. You can read my piece in The Post’s July 8 Health and Science section, and view Steve’s striking images of tigers in the wild and the rangers who protect them from poachers.
Turtles draw a more limited, if devoted, following. People like graduate student Jeff Dragon fall in love with turtles as kids and never outgrow their passion. Jeff is now studying wood turtles – a species native to the northeastern United States — in George Washington National Forest with Smithsonian biologist Tom Akre. In my July feature for The Observer, I shadow Jeff, Tom, and their field assistants for a day as they track nesting wood turtles near the West Virginia border. Wood turtles don’t enjoy the celebrity status of tigers, but they’re becoming increasingly rare just the same. As with most threatened wildlife, human development is destroying and fragmenting their habitat. As with tigers, poaching (in this case for the pet trade) is part of the problem. You can read my feature in The Observer of Jefferson County and in The Observer of Clarke County here.
Oh yeah, one more thing. They’re both orange and black.