ST PETERSBURG: Amid growing apprehension, conservationists at the International Tiger Forum are still awaiting a sign that governments are willing to turn words into action to save the world’s 3,200 remaining wild tigers from possible extinction.
Three of the UK’s leading wildlife groups – the Born Free Foundation, Environmental Investigation Agency and WildAid – fear the meeting may close without essential commitments being made by Asia’s leaders for immediate action to end all trade in tiger parts and derivatives, from all sources.
In the past two days, governments of the 13 countries which still support wild tiger populations have formally adopted the Global Tiger Recovery Program, aiming to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Many also appealed to multinational bodies and other donors to help find the $350 million (£230m) required to implement it during the next five years.
But experience has shown the wait may be long and frustrating. Debbie Banks, Head of EIA’s Tiger Campaign, said: “There is much that governments can do now, for very little money, to instil confidence among donors and the public that this time there really is sufficient political will to deliver effective tiger conservation measures without delay.
“The first thing leaders can do is assign their most senior police and customs officers to participate in a tiger trade workshop under the auspices of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Securing active involvement from these agencies is critical to combating the transnational criminal networks that control the trade.”
Born Free, EIA and WildAid believe that by deploying national expertise in covert operations, governments could immediately launch targeted investigations to infiltrate these networks. Furthermore, by designating an officer from each INTERPOL National Central Bureau to work fulltime on wildlife crime they could more effectively and securely exchange sensitive intelligence on criminal activities, leading to a more coordinated international response.
“Leaders of countries that consume tigers must be able to return home and broadcast a clear, unequivocal message of zero tolerance on tiger trade from all sources, reinforced through the consolidation and destruction of stockpiles of tiger parts and derivatives,” said Steve Trent, President of WildAid.
“These are just a couple of examples of quick, low-cost actions that would demonstrate real leadership and a genuine desire to end the tiger trade, and will go a long way to restoring public confidence in tiger conservation, signalling that the result of St Petersburg forum will be more than words, that it is time to act.”
Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, concluded: “Tiger Range countries have signed up to doubling wild tiger numbers by 2022. That’s good, but what we need to see now are some concrete actions, particularly on stopping the tiger trade. There is a lot they could do right now for very little money.”
Banks, Travers and Trent will be among the speakers at the Save Wild Tigers Forum, at the Royal Geographical Society, on December 7, 2010 to talk about tiger conservation issues and the results of the International Tiger Forum. In partnership with Asia House, the event will be hosted by Donal McIntyre, with a keynote speech from Bill Oddie.
Saving Wild Tigers: Turning Words into Action will take place from 7-8.30pm at The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR. Tickets are £12 (£10 conc) from Asia House on 020 7307 5454 or email [email protected].
1. Born Free is working on the ground and has a sanctuary for rescued tigers in Bannerghatta National Park, in southern India. Here, in three-acre jungle enclosures with large pools, the tigers can live out their lives in peace and dignity and with a degree of freedom, enjoying larger and more natural conditions.
2. The Environmental Investigation Agency tackles the tiger trade by supporting targeted enforcement efforts to combat the illegal trade in skins, bones and derivatives. It investigates the criminal networks and consumer markets driving the trade and campaigns to phase out tiger farms, which undermine efforts to save wild tigers by stimulating demand for tiger parts.
3. WildAid works to reduce the demand for endangered species parts and products, and to put an end to the illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade. WildAid uses high-impact, culturally sensitive, customised multi-media campaigns to encourage a shift in consumer behaviour under the slogan ‘when the buying stops, the killings can too’. WildAid messages reach up to one billion people every week, and are supported by more than 80 high-profile wildlife ambassadors including Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Ang Lee and Harrison Ford.
4. Current estimates suggest as few as 3,200 wild tigers are left worldwide, with about 1,411 in India. Three subspecies of tiger have become extinct in the past 100 years.
5. The International Tiger Forum is being held in St Petersburg, Russia from November 21-24, with a high-level segment hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on November 23.
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