- Title: RUSSIA/FILE: Forum opens to find ways of saving world's threatened tigers
- Date: 22nd November 2010
- Summary: SCREEN SHOWING PICTURES OF TIGERS
- Embargoed: 7th December 2010 12:00
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russia
- Topics: International Relations,Environment / Natural World
- Reuters ID: LVAC37033UEVU4BZN9SVG5LPQT5U
- Story Text: Leaders and senior officials from 13 nations with threatened tiger populations gathered in St.Petersburg on Sunday (November 21) to take part in an unprecedented forum seen as a last ditch effort to save the tiger from extinction The forum was to be attended by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, China's premier Wen Jiabao and other world leaders.
Just 3,200 tigers now roam free, down from 100,000 a century ago, and those that remain face a losing battle with poachers who supply traders in India and China with tiger parts for traditional medicines and aphrodisiacs.
"In Bhutan it is revered as one of the four-power animals that protect our people and it features very strongly in our religion. For Bhutan itself it is very important to protect the tiger but for the world I think if you lose the tiger then you are losing one of the iconic species in the world. So it is very important to protect tiger, because when we protect tiger we are protecting the whole ecosystem," said Pema Gyamsho, representative of Bhutan's Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.
The forum participants were expected to endorse an initiative by the World Bank and wildlife charity WWF aimed at doubling the tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger, under the Chinese calendar.
"We have made a plan. So, the plan would be presented in this meeting and we will try to raise the funds also and will try to convince the member-countries to work on that plan, so that the tiger numbers will be doubled by 2022," said Deepak Bohara, representaive of the Nepal Ministry of Forests and Soil conservation.
It is the first time world leaders have come together to focus on saving a single species.
Putin, who is hosting the "tiger summit" with officials from 13 tiger range nations, will try to broker a deal aimed at turning the tables on poachers. China's Wen and the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Laos are among those expected to attend.
"The summit may be the last chance for the tiger. Tigers are vanishing," World Bank President Robert Zoellick told reporters on a conference call ahead of the gathering in Russia's former imperial capital of St Petersburg.
"We need to see poachers behind bars, not tigers," he said. "If we can't save the tiger, which almost every human being knows from an early age, than what is the likelihood we are going to be able to save any other species?"
The bid to halt poaching, loss of habitat and tiger parts trafficking will cost about $350 million over five years. Securing funding for the 12-year cross border plan will be one of the main aims of the conference, according to the WWF.
On the eve of the forum, a rare Siberian Amur Tiger was found dead from poachers' bullets in Russia's Far Eastern region of Primorsky, highlighting the greatest threat to the tigers.
Only 300 to 400 wild Amur Tigers remain, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
"This crime is a wake up call," IFAW's Russia director Masha Vorontsova said in a statement. "We can't save the tigers unless we combat rampant poaching, which is the single greatest threat to the survival of this species."
Putin, was feted by Russian media in 2008 for saving a television crew from a Siberian tiger by sedating the beast with a tranquilizer gun.
A study by the WWF and wildlife trade watchdog Traffic this month said more than 1,000 tigers have been killed over the last decade for illegal trade, an average of 104 to 119 tigers a year. The groups say this was probably a fraction of the total.
India, home to half the world's wild tiger population, is the centre of the trade with the most seizures of tiger parts, followed by China, where demand is rampant for tiger parts used in traditional medicines and as aphrodisiacs.
Tiger skins can fetch thousands of dollars on the Chinese black market, though just 1,000 breeding females remain in the wild, surviving on barely seven percent of their historic range.
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