World Bank leads tiger conservation drive

Avatar BCR | June 11, 2008 0 Likes 0 Ratings

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World Bank leads tiger conservation drive
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — The World Bank launched Monday a joint project
with conservation groups and Hollywood to help reverse the dramatic
decline of wild tigers in Asia, in what is seen as the single most
important act to save the Big Cat.

The Tiger Conservation Initiative will begin by consulting with
countries that have tiger populations to assess financing needs for
conservation, identify funding sources and mobilize resources to
protect the animals, officials said.

"Just as with many of the other challenges of sustainability — such
as climate change, pandemic disease or poverty — the crisis facing
tigers overwhelms local capabilities and transcends national
boundaries," World Bank President Robert Zoellick said at the
launching at the National Zoo in Washington.

"This is a problem that cannot be handled by individual nations
alone. It requires an alliance of strong local commitment backed by
deep international support," he said at the event held in sweltering
heat alongside the zoo's enclosure of Sumatran tigers.

Even before the launching, the Washington-based bank initiative came
under fire from wary tiger conservationists in India, which houses
the largest number of wild tigers.

They slammed the bank for backing projects such as highways and
forestry plantations in India that had harmed wildlife.

To show that the bank was sensitive to the demands of such groups,
Zoellick said Monday that the bank's "first" step in the tiger
conservation drive was to review its own internal policy.

"First, we at the bank are going to initiate a review to our own
independent evaluation group of our projects in tiger habitats to
learn from the lessons of the past for our future engagement," he

Actor Harrison Ford, fresh off the success of his latest
movie "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," and
actress Bo Derek were at the event to put their celebrity status
behind the tiger initiative.

"Acting together, we can put fangs in tiger security and commit the
resources necessary to save wild tigers," said John Seidensticker, a
world renowned tiger conservation biologist and head of the
Smithsonian's National Zoo center for conservation ecology.

John Berry, the zoo's director, described the World Bank-led
initiative as "the single most important act for tiger conservation
in history."

Tiger poaching and trafficking is at an all-time high amid exploding
economic growth in Asia.

Tiger numbers have declined from more than 100,000 a century ago to
around 4,000 today, driven by loss of prey and habitat due to
uncontrolled development and poaching for the black market trade in
tiger skins and bones.

"The decline in the numbers of tigers is shocking," Zoellick said,
adding that because of poaching, tigers in many supposedly "secure"
reserves across Asia had simply been wiped out.

"Tigers are disappearing from Central Asia, and from East and South
Asia," he said.

The International Tiger Coalition (ITC), comprised of 39 member
groups aiming to stop trade in tiger parts and products, asked the
World Bank to have "open and frank" dialogue with countries on tiger

"This process is crucial in avoiding further damage to tigers brought
by poorly planned development projects," said Grace Ge Gabriel, the
ITC spokeswoman. "Nothing short of global action will bring back wild

The World Bank is planning to host a "Year of the tiger" summit in
2010 to provide a forum for those involved in tiger conservation to
review the status of the wild tigers and their habitant.

It will be a "opportunity to hold our feet to the fire," Zoellick

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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