London: The battle to save the tiger from extinction is set to be scaled up this year after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) placed the Asian big cat at the top of its list of the most endangered species.
Only 3,200 tigers are left in the wild - the vast majority of them in India - as the future of the species is threatened by poachers, destruction of their habitat and climate change, WWF conservationists said in a stark New Year`s message.
"There is particular importance in selecting a creature such as the tiger for special attention. To save the tiger, we have to save its habitat - which is also home to many other threatened species," said Diane Walkington, head of species programme for the WWF in Britain.
"So if we get things right and save the tiger, we will also save many other species at the same time."
She added: "This year will also be the Chinese Year of the Tiger, and so we have put it at the top of our list. It will have special iconic importance."
Conservationists around the world hope the battle will be joined by the Chinese, whose undiminished demand for tiger body parts has fuelled tiger poaching in other countries, particularly India.
Many Chinese consider tiger body parts to have healing properties - a traditional view that is disputed by medical scientists.
There has been no reliable sighting in the wild of the South China Tiger - a subspecies - for 25 years. The only subspecies that remain are the Royal Bengal, Amur, Indo-Chinese, Sumatran and Malayan tigers.
With the world population of tigers having fallen by 40 percent in the past decade, the WWF said it hopes to increase patrols and work with politicians to eradicate poaching and thwart illegal trade of tiger skins and body parts.
The wildlife charity also aims to work with governments to encourage more responsible forest management and compensation for farmers whose livestock are killed by tigers.
On the WWF`s top 10 endangered list are: Tiger, Polar Bear, Pacific Walrus, Magellanic Penguin, Leatherback Turtle, Bluefin Tuna, Mountain Gorilla, Monarch Butterfly, Javanese Rhino and Giant Panda.