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Fighting extinction

World leaders are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars needed to save the tiger from extinction and double the big cat’s numbers in time for the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.

Russian prime minister and self-proclaimed animal lover Vladimir Putin opened his capital city on Sunday to the world’s first gathering of leaders from 13 nations where the tiger’s free rein has been squeezed ever tighter by poachers.

“This is an unprecedented gathering of world leaders [that aims] to double the number of tigers,” Jim Adams, vice-president for the East Asia and Pacific Region at the World Bank, said at the opening ceremony of the four-day event.

“The global tiger initiative is an example of balanced economic development with nature preservation.”

Decades of trafficking in tiger parts and habitat destruction have slashed the roaming tigers’ numbers from 100,000 a century ago to only 3,200 today.

The World Wildlife Fund warned that the species is on course for outright extinction by the next Year of the Tiger under the Chinese calendar.

The tiger rescue effort’s success “depends on the political will of the countries that support it”, WWF Director General James Leape told the conference.

The World Bank estimates that it will take at least US$350 million to support joint efforts to fight poachers and introduce incentives for nature preservation over the next five years.

The high-profile meeting is due to be attended by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and delegations from India and Bangladesh – the three nations with the largest volume of tiger skin and other organ trafficking.

But consensus on the need to save the tiger has been hampered by a lack of coordination on the ground to stop the trafficking of tiger parts such as paws and bones – all prized in traditional Asian medicine.

Apart from Russia, 12 other countries host fragile tiger populations – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam....read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours.

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