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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 7:39 EDT

World’s Biggest Tiger Reservation Created In Myanmar

August 5, 2010

According to conservationists, Myanmar has created the world’s biggest tiger sanctuary by more than tripling an area designated as a reserve for the endangered big cats.

Wild cat group Panthera and the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement this week that the move is a “major step forward” in trying to save the world’s tiger population, which has fallen as low as 3,000.

The groups said the valley could potentially hold several hundred tigers, but also said that illegal hunting of the animals and their prey may mean that number is as few as 50 in the region.

As many as 100,000 tigers populated the forests and grasslands in Asia just a century ago, but numbers have dropped due to poaching and loss of habitat.

The Hukaung Valley is said to be one of the last examples of a closed forest in the region and the reserve could also protect other large mammals like clouded leopards and Asian elephants.

Panthera chief executive Alan Rabinowitz told the AFP news agency that the announcement adds to the 2,500 square mile tiger sanctuary that was reserved in the valley in 2004.

“This reserve is one of the most important stretches of tiger habitat in the world, and I am thrilled that the people and government of Myanmar understand the importance of preserving it,” he added.

The statement said “many years of hard work” went into trying to persuade local ethnic groups and local businesses to agree to the plan.

Conservationists are hopeful about future of the animals.

The statement said “tigers can make a comeback” if hunting of the creatures and their prey is tackled “effectively and immediately.”

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