Experts plea for global action to save tigers

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The Independent Online

Tigers will become extinct unless the international community unites urgently to find new strategies to ensure their survival, campaigners and scientists in Nepal said Tuesday.

Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told the opening of a conference of 200 delegates from 20 countries that action by individual countries would not succeed.

"Global and regional solidarity and collective strategies armed with concrete actions are more necessary now than ever," he said, adding that poaching and habitat loss posed the most serious threat to tigers' survival.

Tiger hunting is illegal worldwide and the trade in tiger parts is banned under a treaty binding 167 countries, including Nepal.

But endangered species attract huge sums of money in China and elsewhere in Asia, with their body parts used in traditional medicines and aphrodisiacs while their skins are used for furniture and decoration.

Wildlife experts say a single tiger skin is traded for a maximum of about 1,000 dollars in Nepalese markets, but at least 10,000 dollars internationally.

World Bank president Robert Zoellick, who sent a video message to the forum, said that illegal activities of traders and poachers were "better organised" than policy makers and conservationists.

"At present the illegal trade in wildlife is estimated at over 10 billion dollars (annually) across Asia -- second only to weapons and drug smuggling," he said.

Mahendra Shrestha, programme director of the US-based Save the Tiger Fund, said only 3,200 tigers survived in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago.

"We need strong law enforcement and regional cooperation," he said.