Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tigers, Asia's threatened predators

ASIA: June 12, 2007

The world's wild tigers are on a path to extinction as numbers continue to decline because of increased poaching, habitat destruction and poor conservation efforts by governments, a new report has said.

Here are some key facts about the tiger:

- The largest of all cats, the tiger is one of the most fearsome predators in the world. It can weigh up to 450 kg (1,000 lb) and measure around ten feet (three metres) from nose to the tip of the tail.

- Tiger numbers in the wild are thought to have plunged from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to between 5,000 and 7,000 today. They now inhabit the forests of Asia -- including India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma, China and Malaysia.

- India is estimated to have half the world's wild tiger population. A century ago, there were about 40,000 tigers in India but a count in 2001 found there only to be around 3,700. Initial results from a new census in May suggest numbers are much lower.

- Three tiger subspecies: the Bali, Javan and Caspian have become extinct in the past 70 years. The five remaining subspecies: Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, South China and Sumatran are all seriously threatened and are listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as endangered.

- Threats to tigers include destruction of their habitat and poaching, as a result of increasing demand for tiger parts such as skins and bones for traditional Asian medicine. Although the trade in tiger parts is illegal, a single animal skin can fetch up to US$50,000 on the international black market.

Sources: Reuters, World Wildlife Fund (www.panda.org), Save the Tiger Fund (www.savethetigerfund.org)

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/ newsid/42522/story.htm

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