Hollywood stars back fight to save tiger

Hollywood stars back fight to save tiger
Posted Tue Jun 10, 2008 3:18pm AEST

Local schoolchildren looking into the great cats enclosure at Washington’s National Zoo today got something more than they bargained for.

Actor and conservationist Harrison Ford was there to help promote a global effort to save what’s fast becoming a threatened species.

“I am concerned about the future of the entire animal community and human community as well,” Ford said.

“The focus on tigers today is a critical opportunity to talk about tigers and talk about the communities in the places in which they live and the others who share that environment – humans included.”

And it’s humans who are the main target of the new initiative.

Deforestation, development and illegal poaching are having a devastating impact on tiger populations across Asia.

Within a century, wild tiger numbers have plummeted from more than 100,000 to fewer than 4,000.

John Seidensticker is a conservation biologist at Washington Zoo.

“Humans dominate every landscape today where tigers now live,” he said.

“The tiger poaching and tiger trafficking in tiger parts and products is at an all-time high.”

But several countries are finding the task of saving tigers too expensive or simply too hard.

That’s why the World Bank is stepping in to bring a global focus to this conservation effort.

The bank’s president, Robert Zoellick, says saving the tiger is a truly international concern.

“Today’s gathering demonstrates that saving the tiger is a global challenge just as with many other challenges of sustainability such as climate change or pandemic disease or poverty,” he said.

“The crisis that faces tigers overwhelms local capabilities and it is one that transcends national borders.”

And as today’s event proved, there’s no shortage of celebrity power behind the effort.

Actress Bo Derek says tigers are ecologically and symbolically important.

“They are just a symbol of freedom and the fact that they are very likely going to be extinct in the wild in our lifetime is just tragic,” she said.

Derek says the tiger population is at the tipping point.

“Some estimates are 4,000, some are less than 2,500 in the wild and this is something we can solve,” she said.

“I am sure of it. It just takes a commitment, so it is now or never.”




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