March 15, 2010

Tigers Still In Danger, Despite International Efforts

A UN wildlife leader said on Monday that almost 4 decades of work to try to save tigers in the wild has "failed miserably", and warned that the large cat is on the brink of extinction.

"If we use tiger numbers as a performance indicator, then we must admit that we have failed miserably and that we are continuing to fail," said Willem Wijnstekers, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger and the International Year of Biodiversity. This must be the year in which we reverse the trend. If we don't, it will be to our everlasting shame," he added.

More than 100,000 tigers roamed the jungles from Turkey to China to Indonesia less than a hundred years ago. Today, less than 3,200 remain in the wild. A ban on tiger parts was put into action in 1975 by CITES -- one of their very first initiatives which regulated cross-border trading of threatened species.

Nearly 95 percent of the tiger's natural habitat has been lost due to farming and human habitation. The tiger is still poached for their skins, bones and organs, which are used to make traditional medicines and potions.

"These animals don't have much time left unless we really get our act together," said John Sellar, CITES's senior enforcement officer. "There is a real underground market going on here," he told AFP.

Many practitioners are still willing to buy tiger bones or other body parts for people who want the genuine treatment, Sellar said. "If we lose the tiger, that in many ways is an indicator of the health of our planet. That is a terrible indictment."

Leaders from 150 nations met in Doha, Qatar to vote on a number of proposals that would ban or restrict trade in endangered animals and plants.


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