November 29, 2004

Conservationists call for more funds, commitment to protect tigers

Via AFP:

HANOI (AFP) - A large injection of funds and commitment from the international community is needed to prevent the world's critically endangered tiger population from dwindling any further, conservationists warned.

Out of the eight sub-species of tiger that roamed the earth's jungles and forests 60 years ago, the Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger and the Javan tiger are now extinct, while less than 20 South China tigers remain.

"Across its range, this magnificent animal is being poisoned, electrocuted, blown up by land mines, trapped, snared, shot and captured," according to global conservation organization, the WWF.

Tiger populations have plunged from around 100,000 at the turn of the last century to between 5,700 and 7,000 today, most in isolated pockets stretching from India to southeastern China and from the Russian Far East to Indonesia.

But those remaining face a multitude of threats, warned S.C. Dey, secretary-general of the Global Tiger Forum, on the opening day of the New Delhi-headquartered international organization's general assembly in Hanoi.

"Increased human-tiger conflict due to rising human population, shrinkage and degradation of tiger habitat and declining preybase pose a serious threat to the survival of the tiger," he said.

Poaching, a lack of public will to protect the animals and the drive towards modernization in Asia's developing countries compound the problem, Dey added.

The decline of tiger populations last century was primarily the result of culls either because they were viewed as dangerous animals or because hunting them was considered a noble sport by colonial and indigenous elite.

Subsequently, commercial trade of tiger skin and other parts of the cat for alleged medicinal purposes have become a major threat to their existence.

"The majority of these animals are sought to meet the demands of a continuing illegal wildlife trade," according to the WWF.

The Bengal, Sumatran, Indochinese and South China sub-species were placed on the most endangered appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1975. The Siberian tiger was listed in 1987.

Preventing these sub-species from becoming extinct requires "significant financial input", massive public education and awareness campaigns and the concerted, unified efforts of conservationists and governments, Dey said.

Currently, manpower and funds assigned to protect tiger populations were inadequate in many tiger-range countries, while "conservationists are very often branded as anti-development" and face local resentment, he added.

Dey stressed, however, that the world has a duty to protect the cats, who as top predators keep populations of other wild animals in check, thereby maintaining the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.

"The tiger occupies the apex of one such eco-system pyramid and our effort to save the tiger is aimed at deferring ecological disaster," he said.

"Strategies have been broadly worked out. What is required is to refine and implement them, so that the tiger continues as a dynamic asset of nature not only in years to follow, but in centuries and the millenium to come."

More information:
5tigers: The Tiger Information Center

Forever Tigers

Save China's Tigers

The Tiger Foundation

Adopt a Tiger

Tiger Link

Tigers in Crisis

Posted by Kyer at November 29, 2004 01:56 PM