Image credit: catlovers/Flickr
The global tiger population has dipped below 3,200 individuals, making it one of the most critically endangered animals on the planet. Facing threats from habitat destruction, climate change, and poaching—encouraged by the animal's value in illegal wildlife trade—the outlook for the tiger is not good.
In response, representatives from 13 Asian nations have gathered for the first Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation. The goal of the meeting is to convince members to invest more time and money toward protecting tigers and to establish targets for increasing their numbers.Addressing the delegates at the opening of the conference, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said:
There will be no room left for tigers and other wildlife in Asia without a more responsible and sustainable program for economic growth and infrastructure...the tiger may be only one species, but the tigers' plight highlights the biodiversity crisis in Asia.
John Seidensticker, head of conservation ecology at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, described the population decline by saying that "losing a tiger is like losing a very close, dear relative and I'm still saddened by that experience."
Saving the tigers, however, will not be an easy task. In spite of conservationist's success curbing rampant hunting of tigers, development in the region—construction of highways and the expansion of cities—has proven to be an even more potent threat.
Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand's Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, commented that "bold commitments and actions [are needed] so that we can collectively turn the tide of extinction on the tiger."
Whether these commitments will be made at this conference, however, remains to be seen. Hopefully, they delegates can lay the groundwork for a heads-of-state meeting in September, during which an action plan will be finalized.
Read more about tigers:
Fading Tiger, Climate Dragon
Tiger Tops WWF's List of Ten Critically Endangered Species
Shock: Ultra Rare Tiger Dismembered at Zoo and Sold on Chinese Black Market
First-Time Footage of Super Rare Sumatran Tiger & Cubs Released (Video)
From the Forums: Will China Save the Tigers?