TIGERS are now confined to only 7 per cent of their historic territory, international wildlife groups warned yesterday.
The majestic animals have disappeared from large areas of the planet in which they lived about 100 years ago, and three out of the eight known sub-species have become extinct.
Now some of the world's leading experts have called for international action to safeguard the remaining populations.
Research by WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund showed that, in the past ten years, tiger habitats had shrunk by 40 per cent. Conservation efforts, such as protection from poaching and the preservation of prey species and tigers' natural habitat, have resulted in some populations remaining stable and even increasing.
But a joint report by the four groups said long-term success would be achieved only through a renewed conservation effort supported by local people, governments and other interested parties. There are estimated to be between 5,000 and 7,200 tigers left in the wild. Three sub-species have already died out, leaving five others.
John Robinson, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: "This report documents a low-water mark for tigers and charts a way forward to reverse the tide. We can save tigers forever."