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World's tigers on 'catastrophic' road to extinction

The end is nigh, says new report

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The world's tigers face "ecological extinction" due to a combination of "increased poaching, habitat destruction, and poor conservation efforts by governments", Reuters reports.

That's according to a report entitled "The Fate of Wild Tigers" in the June issue of BioScience. The gloomy reading notes that loss of habitat and "persistent killing" of the cats had "left areas such as the Caspian region and the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java devoid of tigers".

In India, isolated populations now occupy just seven per cent of the territory they enjoyed a century ago. The country, in common with others, was "inadequately implementing conservation policies and mismanaging funds set aside for the survival of the big cats", the report notes.

It warns: "While the tiger as a wild species will most likely not go extinct within the next half-century, its current trajectory is catastrophic. If this trend continues, the current range will shrink even further, and wild populations will disappear from many more places, or dwindle to the point of ecological extinction."

The biggest threat to the world's tigers may be China's appetite for exotic cat, the report states. The country plans to lift its 1993 ban on the domestic trade of tiger parts, a move "sure to re-ignite interest among more than a billion consumers in emerging economies".

Part of the solution is, says the report's co-author, WWF-International's chief scientist Eric Dinerstein, to "link the small, isolated tiger areas by protected corridors, to allow for more space, movement and breeding of the animals". The report also calls for Asian countries to covene a "tiger summit" with a view to "securing a global pledge to protect the wild heritage of Asia".

While tigers struggle for survival, other cats are faring no better. As we reported in April, hunters in Russia's Far East killed one of just seven female Amur leopards remaining in the wild, reducing the entire population to just 25 to 34 individuals.

On a brighter note, the WWF in the same month announced that the Siberian tiger population had "finally stabilised", up to an estimated 480 to 520 cats from a 1940s low of 40-odd individuals. ®

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