Siberian tiger in peril in Russia: WWF

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The number of Siberian tigers in eastern Russia fell by 15 percent in 2009, a WWF official said on Thursday at an international conference devoted to the endangered animal's plight.

"It is a catastrophic situation... Following observations over the past year, we can say that there has been a drop of around 15 percent in this area," said Yuri Darman of the environmental group, quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Experts from Europe, Asia and the United States are taking part in the conference in Vladivostok.

According to recent figures, there are only around 450 Siberian tigers left in Russia and around 20 to 25 in China. Hunting the animals, which are the largest tigers in the world, was banned in 1947.