Asian ministers pledge to increase wild tiger numbers

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Malayan Tiger swimming (2007)
Image: B cool.

Ministers from thirteen countries in Asia pledged on Friday to doubling the wild tiger population on the continent by 2022, to seven thousand.

The commitment was made in Thailand, and is Asia's first ministerial conference on tiger conservation; the thirteen countries that upheld the pledge were Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam — all countries in which the wild Asian tiger is still found.

"The wild tiger is already in crisis. This may be our last chance to save it," commented Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a video address.

The meeting was partially organised by the Global Tiger Initiative, a coalition group within the World Bank, as well as the Smithsonian Institution and various conservation groups.

Meeting host Suwit Khunkitti, who is also the Thai minister of natural resources and environment, also remarked that "tigers are at a tipping point. There were 100,000 tigers across our range countries 100 years ago. Today, there are about 3,500 left."

Wild tigers are primarily found in China, Russia and most of southern Asia; according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), tiger numbers have been reduced due to a poaching epidemic. The animals live in only seven percent of the territory they had a hundred years ago, according to Voice of America.

Michael Baltzer, who is with the WWF, noted: "This is important because the tigers are in a serious decline and it's really the tipping point for tigers. This is the Year of the Tiger and it's the year that all of the concerned organizations have come together and said enough is enough. We really need to turn around the future for wild tigers and so it's really this year or never."

The program director for the Global Tiger Initiative, Keshav Varma, said: "You know if you save the tiger, you are saving the habitat for a lot of other species. So the tiger is symbolic about this and as the apex and the most charismatic species, it is drawing attention to the habitat and to the prey base, to encroachment, to corruption, to so many issues."