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Final bid to save big cats

Leaders of the few remaining nations where tigers are still found in the wild are preparing for a make-or-break summit in Russia, which they believe offers the last chance to save the endangered animal.

world Updated: Oct 17, 2010 23:56 IST
Guardian

Leaders of the few remaining nations where tigers are still found in the wild are preparing for a make-or-break summit in Russia, which they believe offers the last chance to save the endangered animal.

The Global Tiger Summit in St Petersburg next month will bring together the 13 countries that still have wild tigers, along with conservation organisations, in an attempt to thrash out a global recovery plan.

The WWF says it is optimistic about the summit's chances of success, but warns that failure will lead to the extinction of the tiger across Asia.

Organisers of the summit, hope agreements can be reached that will lead to a doubling of tiger numbers by 2,022. But some conservationists fear the summit will be another talking shop that fails to deliver results.

The situation is so critical that four of the nations attending no longer have viable breeding populations, according to a new study.

The study — produced by researchers from Cambridge University, the World Bank and the Wildlife Conservation Society — concluded that "current approaches to tiger conservation are not slowing the decline in tiger numbers..." It recommended that, rather than trying to save all the remaining tigers, governments should concentrate on sites that provided the most realistic chance of supporting a breeding population.

WWF's head of species programme in UK Diane Walkington said progress had been made to sketch out a recovery plan and to concentrate the minds of politicians on the issue. "We are down to 3,200 and that is a really low number." The solution, she said, was co-operation to tackle issues like smuggling.

The "tiger range" countries attending the conference are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Some worry the summit is more about politicians wanting to be seen to be doing something. Conservationist Aditya Singh said: There is no link between field workers and conservation leaders. They don't even know each other's problems and the conservation efforts are not coordinated. Kind of like the climate summit."