Region steps up fight to save tigers

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Region steps up fight to save tigers

Published: 22/01/2010 at 12:00 AM

Wildlife officials are hoping an international meeting in Hua Hin next week will provide the impetus for a major effort to save tigers from extinction throughout Asia.

Organised by the WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature, the meeting will bring together environment ministers or representatives from 13 countries on Wednesday to discuss how to secure the future of tigers whose numbers have declined dramatically in recent decades.

Participants will come from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. They will hold a two-day meeting with non-governmental organisations who will propose action plans.

The talks are part of a global process to determine high-level commitment and action to secure the future of tigers ahead of the Tiger Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, in September hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and World Bank president Robert Zoellick.

WWF Thailand country director William Schaedla said wild tiger populations had dwindled from an estimated 100,000 a century ago to 20,000 globally in the 1980s, and are now estimated to be as low as 3,200 and falling.

Without concerted action, wild tigers could be extinct by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger, he said.

Peter Cutter, the WWF coordinator for the Kayah Karen Tenasserim Eco-region project, said an ambitious global goal was to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 to about 6,000.

“As long as we help protect tiger habitats … we can reach the goal,” Mr Cutter said.

Apart from the extensive sanctuaries needed by tigers _ a male roams over 50 sq km _ adequate prey animals such as samba and banteng would also determine population growth, he said.

About 500 prey animals were needed to sustain an adult tiger each year.

“The challenge is that we need to do it very quickly now or the population will diminish, causing genetic depletion or diversion that will have a serious negative impact on the tiger species,” Mr Cutter said.

Commitments were needed to strengthen law enforcement against poachers and those involved in the illegal tiger parts trade as well as restaurants selling prey meat situated around the 13 tiger range countries, he said.

While the WWF commended Thailand for its efforts to save the tiger prey area, it also called for more stringent law enforcement and sustainable strategies for tiger conservation.

Mr Schaedla said he hoped next week’s meeting would commit to an expansion of wildlife areas and put tiger conservation strategies on the national agenda.

“Thailand has been a good model so far. But a lot still needs to be done.”

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