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Tigers nuzzles each other. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild today. (istockphoto.com)

Nations Sign Plan to Save Tigers

Officials from Asian countries hope to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022

By Tyrus Cukavac | December 3 , 2010
<br />Only 13 countries—all in Asia—still have wild tiger populations.<br /><br />(Jim McMahon)<br />

Only 13 countries—all in Asia—still have wild tiger populations.

(Jim McMahon)

Last week, 13 countries agreed to try to double the world's wild tiger population by 2022. Nations that still have tigers that live in the wild, like India and China, sent representatives to a summit in Russia to come up with a plan to try to save the endangered felines.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin headed the summit, held by the World Wildlife Fund, a group that fights to save endangered animals. At the conference, government officials signed the Global Tiger Recovery Plan. The program sets different goals for each country to help battle specific problems facing each region's tiger populations.

Only 3,200 tigers live in the wild today, all of them in Asia. But at least 100,000 tigers roamed the wild only 100 years ago. Scientists think that, without conservation, wild tigers could become extinct in only 12 years.

In parts of Asia, tiger body parts are sold for a big price for use in medicine, making them a target for poachers (people who catch or kill animals illegally).

Habitat loss also threatens tigers. An animal's habitat is the specific area where that animal can live. Tigers need space to roam, and the land where tigers can live has been shrinking. People have leveled their habitats to cut down trees for wood and clear land to make plantations.

At last week's summit, countries, wildlife organzations, and other donors pledged $185 million to fund the conservation program. But organizers need $350 million just to get the project started. The World Bank has also pledged to help local conservation efforts and promised not to fund any projects that might damage tiger habitats.

RUSSIA'S BIG CATS

Prime Minister Putin has taken a personal interest in tiger conservation. With help from professional animal handlers, the Prime Minister even placed an electronic tag on a wild tiger for scientists to track and research.

In the past 60 years, conservation efforts in Russia have raised the country's own Amur tiger population from 50 to 500.

"Tiger families from Russia could start the process of reviving tiger populations where they have completely disappeared, in such countries as Kazakhstan and Iran," Prime Minister Putin said.

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