On Thursday, February 5, OpFunKill, the anti-hunting branch of hacktivist group Anonymous, changed its stripes temporarily, becoming OpTigerStorm, and nearly swallowing the internet whole.
With over 25,000 tweets in the short Tweetstorm period, all other hashtags were just so much carrion, as #OpTigerStorm leapt to the top of the trending lists internationally.
This operation has no formal hacking goals, although after speaking to person behind the main Twitter account we gather hacks would not be refused if offered; the dolphin action #OpKillingBay, for instance, has involved the hacking of Thailand’s foreign ministry in retaliation for Thailand’s ongoing importation of captured dolphins. And #SaveSweWolves boasted a couple of particularly amusing hacks: turning the heat down in the police station, and hacking the printer so it would print out only photos of dead wolves for two hours.
Instead, #OpTigerStorm focused on bringing attention to the multiple and critical threats to the tiger population: sport hunting, apothecary components, conspicuous consumption, tourism/circuses, irresponsible liger and white tiger breeding, illegal tiger farming, and habitat encroachment. With over 100 pre-fabricated tweets to copy/paste, the tweetstorm had the advantage of being informative rather than repetitive, and may have caught public attention specifically because it cast such a wide net.
The statistics are shocking: since the year 1900, the tiger population of the planet has decreased by over 95%, and their habitat has decreased by 93%, all entirely thanks to humanity. No-one has laid eyes on a Balinese tiger since 1937, and when they saw it, they shot it. The Caspian tiger has been MIA since the ’50’s, and in 2003 bureaucracy made official what had been merely obvious, and declared it extinct. The Javan tiger lasted long enough to see the rise of Milli Vanilli, and vanished even more abruptly.
Your humble reporter can confirm this, having seen tiger parts and skins in back rooms and under counters, offered to the tourists as “special”; in fact, I can’t begin to list all the endangered species I saw for sale in Indonesia, alive or (mostly) dead.
With fewer than four thousand tigers left on the planet, and with carcasses and parts fetching up to $50,000 an animal thanks to the demand for exotic apothecary ingredients sold to enhance virility and strength, it’s clear that unless effective international action is taken, and soon, the only tigers left will be inbred, deformity-riddled captives, earning a sordid living as selfie-dressing.
Ironically, illegal Chinese tiger farms are probably the tigers’ best hope; ironic because the tigers are raised for slaughter. With an estimated 200 farms, they represent the largest source of live tigers in the world. Officially, China bans trade in tiger parts; unofficially, it’s as popular as booze during prohibition. Indeed, one of the most popular concoctions is “tiger wine,” muddy rice wine in which the skeleton of a tiger has been soaked. There is, thankfully, no tiger in Tiger Balm, although the company has come under public pressure to change the name.
It’s not all bad news, however. One subspecies has made a comeback. But then, there’s not a lot of competition for land in Siberia.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Anonymous Operation if it didn’t have a corporate target. Now it does.