TIME animals

As the World Mourns Cecil the Lion, Asia Is Taking Steps to Protect Its Own Big Cats

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OLI SCARFF—AFP/Getty Images A rare Amur Tiger cub, aged four months, plays with its mother Tschuna as it experiences its reserve for the first time at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park near Doncaster, northern England on July 29, 2015.

Populations are recovering in some regions but the animals remain vulnerable to poaching

Asia has been taking stock of its tiger population.

The Bhutan government announced Wednesday—World Tiger Day—that its first-ever national survey revealed a total population of 103 tigers. This represents an increase from the previous estimate of 75, an encouraging sign. Two days earlier, survey results from the Sundarban forests in Bangladesh showed that the tigers there also numbered just over a hundred.

Countries like India, Russia and Nepal have consistently reported higher numbers over the past few years, but Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are yet to conduct reliable and comprehensive censuses, and tigers have all but disappeared from countries like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

“It really is a sort of North-South divide,” Mike Baltzer, leader of the global tiger program at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said in an interview with TIME. “The countries in Southeast Asia have not quite yet got the levels of investment and commitment specifically to ensure that we’re not going to lose tigers in those countries,” he explains.

The poaching of tigers in Asia remains a perpetual problem—Baltzer says it is “as big a problem as it is in Africa,” but has not seen the kind of sudden surge that the killing of lions, elephants and rhinos has. “Tiger poaching has just been continuously going on and hasn’t spiked like it has in Africa at the moment,” he said. “If there’s a sudden change in the demand patterns in China or Vietnam, the places where there’s a strong demand, we could see the same spike in tigers because many of the countries are really not prepared for an onslaught like we’re seeing in most of Africa.”

Tigers are hunted for their bones, claws and teeth, all of which are used in traditional Asian medicines.

Baltzer remains cautiously optimistic about the future of the world’s tiger population, particularly since Tx2, an initiative to double the global tiger population by 2022, was adopted by the Asian countries five years ago. India has since reported a population increase to 2,226, up from 1,706, while Russia and Nepal are believed to have 540 and 198 tigers respectively.

But the absence of focused government investment and inadequate anti-hunting measures could lead to a rapid unraveling of the tiger population’s recent strides forward.

“We mustn’t take our foot off the pedal,” Baltzer warns.“Any slip could bring us back to that precarious position we were in just a few years ago.”

TIME Bangladesh

Only 100 Tigers Remain in Bangladesh’s Sundarban Forests, Survey Shows

India Tigers Census
Joydip Kundu—AP ARoyal Bengal tiger prowls in Sunderbans, at the Sunderban delta, about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Calcutta, India on April 26, 2014.

The 3,860-mile mangrove forest is one of the big cats' largest natural habitats

Only some 100 tigers currently roam the Sundarban forests of Bangladesh, a new survey has discovered, indicating far fewer big cats than previously thought in one of their largest global habitats.

The yearlong survey that ended in April was based on footage from hidden cameras and found the true number of tigers to be between 83 and 130, Agence France-Presse reported.

“So plus or minus we have around 106 tigers in our parts of the Sundarbans,” Tapan Kumar Dey, the Bangladesh government’s wildlife conservator, told AFP. “It’s a more accurate figure.”

The number represents a precipitous drop from the 440 figure included in the last tiger census in 2004, although experts say in hindsight the earlier calculation may have been inaccurate since it was based on a study of the animals’ paw prints or pugmarks.

The news from Bangladesh is in contrast to South Asian neighbor India — home to about 70% of the global tiger population — where the Environment Ministry said in January that the number of tigers had risen to 2,226 from 1,411 in 2008. There are apparently 74 tigers on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, the mangrove forest that stretches for nearly 4,000 miles across both countries.

Monirul Khan, a zoology professor at Bangladesh’s Jahangirnagar University and the country’s foremost expert on tigers, stressed that the government needs to intervene in order to protect the animals from poaching and their habitat from destruction through development.

The number of wild tigers worldwide is currently estimated at just 3,200 compared to 100,000 in 1900, and WWF says they are in danger of soon becoming extinct.

[AFP]

TIME Demography

U.S. Steps Closer to a Future Where Minorities Are the Majority

Census finds the country's minority population has risen to 37.9%

Minority births in the U.S. are far outpacing deaths as the white population remains all but stagnant, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday, driving the country closer to the point at which minorities outnumber whites.

The country’s minority population increased from 32.9% of U.S. residents in 2004 to 37.9% in 2014, according to the Census, and four states — Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas — along with Washington, D.C., are now majority-minority. Nevada, which has 48.5% minority population, is likely next.

Non-Hispanic deaths outpaced births in 2014 for a third year in a row, something University of New Hampshire demographer Ken Johnson says has never happened before in the U.S.

“We expected to see non-Hispanic white natural decrease in the future, but it wasn’t expected to start for another decade or so,” Johnson says, adding that the recession and low fertility rates have contributed to the dip. “The white population is considerably older than any other part of the population. This means it has higher mortality. Fewer women are in their prime child-bearing years.”

The slowdown in white population increases is coupled with minority births that are outpacing deaths by three to one. An estimated 95% of the country’s population gain – a 2,360,000 increase – came from minorities last year, while whites made up almost 80% of deaths. However, the non-Hispanic white population did see a bump thanks to 155,000 immigrants, mostly from Europe. The population for whites grew by just 94,000.

“Ironically, non-Hispanic whites are now more dependent on immigration for population increase than any other group,” Johnson says.

Demographers predict that the U.S. will be majority-minority for the first time by the mid-2040s. Millennials, meanwhile, who number 83.1 million, have now surpassed Baby Boomers at 75.4 million and are the most diverse generation in history. But Census numbers show that the generation after them will be the first to be majority-minority. More than half of all Americans aged five years or younger are non-white.

TIME society

California, Where Brown and Gray America Collide

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Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

Two of the country's fastest growing populations are learning how to embrace change

It was like being in a foreign country. Having never lived anywhere but California, I arrived at Brandeis University in the 1970s to study gerontology and geriatrics. I was a grandson of migrant farm workers, a polio survivor, and one of the first Latino students from the Southwest to attend a Boston-area college.

I found myself assigned to interview retirees in New Hampshire as a part of a survey of long-term care facilities. The subjects were Anglo, God-fearing, patriotic men who found it strange for a young disabled Latino to inquire about their personal lives. I later learned that the Brandeis faculty also had qualms about sending me into this uncharted territory. However, after shooting pool with me, these elderly gentlemen invited me for a snowmobile ride (my first-ever). We were soon like good friends, and thus the surveys were completed successfully.

Looking back now, I can see this experience was a prescient microcosm of one of the greatest challenges America faces today: addressing the sometimes conflicting needs of the two fastest growing population segments in the country—the elderly and ethnic minorities. It also shows us how California can lead the way.

The U.S. is facing two key milestone years: In 2030, the last of the aging baby boomers all will have turned age 65, and in 2045, we will have become a majority-minority nation. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that in 2044, non-Hispanic whites will drop below 50 percent of the population, and Hispanics—America’s largest racial/ethnic minority—will surpass 25 percent.

These years can be benchmarks by which to measure how we respond to a changing demographic landscape. Between 2015 and 2055, the Latino population will double in size, from 56.8 million to 112.3 million. In the same time period, the number of adults over 65 will have nearly doubled (from 47.8 million to 92.5 million), creating the largest “senior citizen” group in our history. Fifty-seven percent of those individuals will be non-Hispanic white, and 21 percent will be Hispanic.

What does this mean for the future of our country? Will fear and insecurity create racial discrimination and ageism, or will we have the foresight to prepare for, invest in, and embrace this new America?

The current state of our political discourse isn’t promising. Social Security could become a defining issue in the 2016 election. Its solvency hangs over politicians and the public on both sides of the debate. Immigration reform, meanwhile, is stuck in limbo, hampered in part by an undercurrent of nativism. Are we destined to forever have these conflicts, or can we find common cause, accept the reality of the demographic changes, and use them to our advantage? I believe my personal journey, and recent California history, provide insight into the path forward.

My mother, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, raised nine children on her own in Salinas, California. We were fortunate to have the benefits of public housing, a robust social welfare safety net, and of course, a mother with strong values. As a result, all nine of her children are college graduates with professional careers. If there is a message in our personal journey, it is to recognize and accept that America is a nation of immigrants, and the true task will be to adapt to a future, which holds the promise of reconciliation rather than generational and racial conflict.

I saw first-hand how my grandmother (who came with her family to California fleeing the Mexican Revolution) and mother faced discrimination, and now that I am an “elder,” I have seen how the Mexican community here acquired political and economic influence over the past half century. Yet I also see how other parts of the country (particularly New England, the Midwest, and the South) are only now coming to terms with waves of immigrants and facing the discomfort we once had in California.

We faced immense struggles (deportations, riots) in adapting to constant demographic shifts, but over many years, Californians became accustomed to change. California, which became a majority-minority state by 1999, continues to be a harbinger for the nation. Our struggles with propositions 187 (to deny social services to undocumented immigrants) and 209 (to end affirmative action) galvanized undocumented persons to naturalize and vote, giving impetus to a powerful set of Latino and Asian elected officials. California is the world’s seventh largest economy in part because of the interconnections of its immigrant groups. The Korean, Persian, Central American, Mexican, Chinese, and Armenian diasporas in California are second in size only to their home countries. These and other factors can show the nation (and older voters) that notwithstanding unsettling demographic trends, in time, regions can and will benefit from the presence of these groups.

With time, acculturation, and intermarriages, we have reached an equilibrium where a majority of Californians today feel that immigration is good for the state. This gives me hope that, as immigrants assimilate, the rest of America can adjust and adapt to these demographic changes.

Indeed, demographics suggest that America will be forced to adapt. Anglos make up 76 percent of baby boomers, a large proportion of whom will require long-term care assistance, whether in institutional facilities or at home. A rising percentage of their caregivers (currently 27 percent) are minorities and immigrants.

And it’s not just the caregiving where these two groups will have to learn to work with each other: As these same baby boomers sell their homes, who will the buyers be? The aging Anglo population is having fewer children. But will the growing, younger minority populations have the education, jobs, and financial resources to buy those homes?

The United States is aging, but with fertility rates above replacement levels, thanks largely to Latinos and Asian-Americans, many of whom live in California. These are groups inherently loyal to the U.S. and able to acculturate thanks to a civic culture that fosters engagement in our democratic processes. In turn, Latino culture and Asian economic investments enable cities such as Los Angeles to remain viable, and the cultural infusion of foods, new ideas, popular music, and capital investments keep the our country and state vibrant.

We must recognize that all Americans have a common stake and self-interest in our mutual success. As I learned in working with New Hampshire retirees decades ago, by drawing on our personal backgrounds, understanding individual concerns, and appealing to our good sense and compassion, we can forge unlikely bonds with one another.

Now is the time to make this compelling case to the baby boomer generation. I know that my children and grandchildren will grow and age in a nation that is much different than it was in the last century. By embracing and supporting who we have been and who we are becoming, we can be confident that America will continue to prosper and be a beacon for the world.

Fernando Torres-Gil is the director of the UCLA Center for Policy Research on Aging, the principal investigator for the Ford Foundation-funded Latinos and Economic Security project, and a member of the board of the American Association of Retired Persons. He wrote this for “Reimagining California,” a partnership of the California Endowment and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Population

Is This The End of The Baby Recession?

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With love of photography—Getty Images

There are two key reasons why the U.S. birth rate may have increased.

Whoa, baby!

The U.S. birth rate is officially looking up.

Preliminary figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 1% increase in the number of babies born, with births up for nearly every racial and ethnic group. The grand total? 3.98 million births in 2014.

(Now that’s a lot of diapers.)

Government statisticians also found decreases in cesarean sections, preterm births and the teen birth rate.

Much of the credit for the recent baby boomlet goes to improved economic health and increasingly stabler paychecks.

Population Reference Bureau senior demographer Carl Haub tells USA Today: “The recession is ending—we think it’s ending—for some people, so we might attribute a rise in the birth rate” to the economy.

Another potential contributing factor? More affordable health care.

“The unique historical event that could explain this jump is the enactment of the Affordable Care Act,” Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore University Hospital, tells U.S. News. “For the first six months in 2014, over 10 million non-elderly adults who were previously uninsured bought health insurance,” he explains. “Care is now affordable to millions who, prior to the ACA, would have endured significant economic hardship having and raising children.”

It sounds like the current economy has some people sleeping like a baby—or having one.

If you’re ready to jump on the baby bandwagon, consult this checklist for financially preparing for your little bundle of joy.

More From LearnVest:

TIME Japan

Japan’s Population Falls to 15-Year Low

More than 1 in 4 people in Japan are now 65 or older

Japan’s population has dropped for the fourth year in a row, bringing it to a low not seen since 2000.

There were just more than 127 million people living in Japan as of last Oct. 1, which marked a decrease of 215,000 people compared with one year earlier, according to newly released government data reported by the Guardian.

The biggest problem for Japan may be the rate at which its population is aging. The number of people age 65 or older in Japan has reached 33 million. More than 1 in 4 people are older than 65 and they outnumber people 14 and younger 2 to 1. The government estimates the population will drop to 86.7 million by 2060, with people over 65 making up 40% of the country.

Though the problem of falling birthrates and aging population is particularly acute in Japan, a similar problem is also brewing in Europe and the U.S. The federal government’s data from late last year showed that 2013 birthrates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2013, down 9% from a high in 2007, as American women delay having children.

TIME Japan

Scarecrows Outnumber People in Tiny Japanese Village

Getty Images

It's 150 scarecrows vs. 35 elderly residents

A village in Japan has four times as many scarecrows as people. And it’s all thanks to one woman — and more than a decade of work.

Tsukimi Ayano said she made her first scarecrow 13 years ago in the likeness of her father as a tribute to him after his death. Since then, she’s made more than 350 life-sized dolls but, like their human counterparts, they don’t last forever, so about 150 of them remain in Nagoro, a village in southern Japan.

Still, with a population of 35, the scarecrows outnumber the people in Nagoro by a good amount, acting as replacements for…

Read the rest of the story from out partners at NBC News.

TIME Iran

Iran Mulls Laws That ‘Reduce Women to Baby-Making Machines,’ Says Amnesty

Tehran plans to outlaw vasectomies and reduce access to birth control

Amnesty International has slammed Iran for proposing two draft laws aimed at boosting the country’s population, saying the legislating would “reduce Iranian women to ‘baby-making’ machines.”

One proposal would ban voluntary sterilization and restrict access to contraceptives, while the other would make it harder for women without children to get jobs.

In a report released Wednesday, Amnesty says the laws, if approved by Tehran’s parliament, would “set the country back by decades” and have serious consequences for women and girls. (For the past two decades, Iran has had an effective birth control program in place that provided affordable contraception, subsidies for vasectomies, and education on family planning and sexual health, with the aim of reducing the population.)

“By abolishing family planning programs and blocking access to vital sexual and reproductive health services, the authorities would be exposing women to serious health risks, and violating their human rights,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The second bill would instruct workplaces to prioritize employing men with children, married men with children and married women with children when hiring for certain jobs. The new legislation would also make obtaining a divorce more difficult, which Amnesty says would have “devastating consequences” for women in abusive relationships.

“The bills send a message that women are good for nothing more than being obedient housewives and creating babies and suggests they do not have the right to work or pursue a career until they have fulfilled that primary role and duty,” said Sahraohi, adding that without access to contraceptives more women would risk their lives and health by undergoing unsafe abortions.

MONEY Census

Most Americans Are Crammed Into 3% of the Country

aerial view of subdivision
David Sucsy

We love cities. A lot.

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re living in one very small portion of the United States. That’s because, according to a new Census report, nearly 63% of the population resides in what’s known as an incorporated area—we know it as a city—and those cities take up just 3.5% of the country’s landmass.

In other words, more than half of the people in the country are crammed into an area a little smaller than the state of Montana.

Not only have most Americans shoehorned themselves into cities, but more people are moving in by the day. The population of incorporated places jumped by 24.1 million between 2000 and 2013, slightly faster than the country’s population growth as a whole.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, since we know there’s a general trend toward urbanization in society, and while not all cities are urban areas, there’s some serious overlap. The majority of incorporated places are actually relatively small, but 60% of city folk live somewhere with a population of at least 50,000.

That said, it’s worth taking a second to consider how 198 million people, the total number of city residents, are all essentially trying to live on a tiny sliver of the country’s total area. New York, the nation’s most populous city, alone holds 2.6% of the U.S. population, despite taking up one-fifth the space of Rhode Island, America’s smallest state.

So the next time you think your apartment is too small, just remember: there’s a whole lot of space out there in the rest of the country. You just don’t want to live there.

TIME India

India’s Tiger Population Has Risen Significantly Since 2008, Say Officials

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STRDEL—AFP/Getty Images A Royal Bengal Tiger pauses in a jungle clearing in Kaziranga National Park, some 280 km east of Guwahati, India, In this photograph taken on Dec. 21, 2014

The surge from 1,411 in 2008 to 2,226 currently comes despite widespread poaching

India’s tiger population has risen dramatically in the past seven years despite widespread poaching, smuggling and diminishing habitats, according to latest figures.

India’s Environment Ministry says that there are now 2,226 tigers nationwide compared with a historic low of 1,411 in 2008, Indian news channel NDTV reported.

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said India is now home to about 70% of the world’s tigers.

The news of the big cats’ booming population comes amid reports of a record number of tiger deaths between 2010 and 2014.

The previous tiger census in 2010 had pegged the total number at 1,706.

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