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The worldwide tiger habitat has shrank dramatically over the last 100 years.  (Source: Curious Maps)

There are now estimated to be less than 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Researchers and conservationists estimate the species could go extinct in a couple decades without dramatic intervention.  (Source: Moss Project)
One of the world's largest and most iconic predators may soon go extinct in the wild

Amid all the fuss over global warming and alternative energy, the continued loss of biodiversity is being largely overlooked and forgotten.  And the trend may claim its highest profile victim to date in just a couple decades, say conservation groups.

For at least a million years tigers have roamed the forests and jungles of Asia, ruling the top of the food chain.  But today Tigers are facing a final bow from the world they once ruled as their habitats have been destroyed and their numbers slashed by poaching.  

At the start of the twentieth century there were an estimated 100,000 tigers, according to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), an environmental advocacy firm that studies the unique species.  Over the course of the last century those numbers shrank and several subspecies -- the Bali, Javan, and Caspian Tigers -- went extinct.  

The WWF has released a new report estimating that there are now only 3,200 tigers left in the wild in India, Southeast Asia, Russia, and China.  They estimate that within a generation tigers will become extinct in the wild, if drastic action is not taken to conserve them.

Sybille Klenzendorf, director of the WWF-US species conservation program comments, "There is a real threat of losing this magnificent animal forever in our lifetime. This would be like losing the stars in the sky. Three tiger subspecies have gone extinct, and another, the South China tiger, has not been seen in the wild in 25 years."

World Bank, a multinational financial institution that provides loans to developing countries, is partnering with the WWF in a push to save the beasts.  

Keshav S. Varma, program director of the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative comments, "Unless we really crack down on illegal trade and poachers, tigers in the wild have very little chance. If the tigers disappear, it is an indication of a comprehensive failure. It's not just about tigers. If you save the tiger, you are going to save other species. It provides an excellent indicator of commitment to biodiversity. If they survive, it shows we are doing our job right. If they disappear, it shows we are just talking."

Despite the fact that so few tigers remain, demand for their body parts is at an all time high on the Asian black markets.  Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC-North America, which monitors the trade in wildlife, comments, "The demand for bones and skin, meat, and even claws and teeth ... is driving a major crime campaign to wipe tigers out in the wild."

Lixin Huang, president of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine has teamed with the WWF to try to fight Chinese natives from using tiger parts in their traditional remedies.  States Huang, "Traditional Chinese medicine does not need tiger bones to save lives.  What we are dealing with is an old tradition, an old belief that tiger wine can make their bones stronger. That is not medicine, that is from old tradition."

The WWF's ambitious goal is to try to get the tiger population doubled to 6,400 tigers in the wild by 2022.  To do that, they say they will need $13M USD a year and cooperation from the governments of Bangladesh, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Russia, the United States, Vietnam, and the Greater Mekong region, which stretches across Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

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RE: All the money in the world won't save them
By MozeeToby on 2/11/2010 6:04:22 PM , Rating: 5
Eliminating a major predator from an area is very dangerous to the ecosystem. Look at the Midwest as an example. Hunters cleared out the wolves and mountain lions, now the deer populations are out of control. There's been years where they couldn't give enough tags away to keep the population under control.

Shortly thereafter Chronic Wasting Disease rolled through the area (fueled by the overpopulation) and damn near wiped out the deer population in some places. With the decline in the deer population, the undergrowth in the forests grew much thicker than it should have been, increasing the risk of fires, and increasing the food available for other herbivores, again causing overpopulation in those groups.

A diverse ecosystem is a self-stabilizing one. Eliminate an animal that fills an important niche can have wide ranging and non-obvious effects that are still felt decades or even centuries down the road. Humans killing off other species might be nature, but it's incredibly short sighted.

RE: All the money in the world won't save them
By porkpie on 2/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: All the money in the world won't save them
By uprm on 2/11/10, Rating: 0
RE: All the money in the world won't save them
By porkpie on 2/11/2010 9:00:57 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't true. Swailing (as its technically known) is fought tooth and nail by many environmental groups. Here in Oregon, for instance, a few years back an environmental group went to court and managed to block farmers from even being able to use controlled burns on their own farmlands, much less public forests. And just last month, up in Washington, a state environmental agency fined the Forest Service for a controlled burn, on the grounds that the smoke violated clean air requirements.

By gamerk2 on 2/12/2010 10:16:46 AM , Rating: 2
Remember, Tiger populations keep Wolf populations in check. Russia in particular generally favors tigers to Wolfs, as Wolfs are far more likely to interact with humans...

By uprm on 2/13/2010 11:54:06 PM , Rating: 2
Your examples are relatively small scale and do not point to environmentalist stopping controlled burns in most forests. In the vast majority of public lands prescribed burns take place every year without issue unless there is a danger to property. I would not be surprised if the situation in Oregon is likely grass seed farms which are hardly a threat to wildfires or the ecology if not burned. The crackdown also seemed to arise after a 23 car pile-up and some fatalities on the Interstate. Not a legit argument that environmental groups are preventing prescribed burns to reduce the threat of wildfires.

RE: All the money in the world won't save them
By Shuxclams on 2/12/2010 6:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
As a hunter I am appalled by people who take predators. I refuse to hunt cougars or bears unless they are a clear danger to humans and cannot be relocated. Just as with our fisheries steps need to be taken to save our planets biodiversity. Posting this on a 'Tech' site might just expand the horizons of some otherwise very smart people.


By whiskerwill on 2/12/2010 7:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
So in other words, you don't care that its not tech news, as long as it helps propagandize people properly?


By callmeroy on 2/15/2010 12:14:39 PM , Rating: 2
That and not to mention that cows, chickens, pigs -- they exist in this country primarily as a food source that's why they have farms dedicated to managing their population (which means both making sure they don't get too low and making sure they don't get too numerous that the farm can't handle them).

And BEFORE anyone says "well in some asia nations they use tigers as a food source" they do -- but its illegal. Last time I checked even China has Tigers marked as illegal to hunt, for food or sport.

There's a tremendous difference between hunting animals on your own in the wild for food where you don't give a crap about how it impacts anything else and when animals are raised as livestock for the sole purpose of food and thus are "professionally" managed by farmers (which btw Farmers bust their arse -- its a lot harder work than I think most folks give them credit for).

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