Washington: Nearly extinct, tigers can
still be saved but efforts necessary for their survival face
two huge obstacles: deforestation and the black market, where
the big cats sell for USD 50,000 a piece.
A hundred years ago, they still numbered 100,000 and
were spread across Asia, from India to China and passing
through Russia. But today, even the most optimistic estimates
find that only 3,500 tigers remain in the wild.
"Tigers are on a decline, they are threatened by
habitat destruction and poaching," said Joseph Vattakaven, one
of India`s top tiger scientist.
The senior coordinator of Tiger Conservation for the
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in India and a couple dozen other
experts from Asia gathered at the National Zoo in Washington
to exchange plans to preserve the species.
A symbol of power and ferociousness, the super
predators are hunted down for their prized coat of dark
vertical stripes over white and reddish-orange fur.
But poachers are also after the predators` bones,
teeth, claws, whiskers and other organs used for traditional
medicine and potions that allegedly boost sexual performance -
think tiger penis soup - but also make a killing on the
Most of the clients are in China, according to
"We have to stop the demand in China. People are not
aware of how many tigers are in danger," he said.
"Everyone must be involved. We need to involve people
of local communities" near tiger habitats to put a stop to
poaching practices, he added.
Among the ideas offered up at the gathering organised
by the Global Tiger Initiative: creating specialised patrols
well-versed in poaching techniques that could dissuade or