By Jeremy Hance
At a summit in 2010, the world's 13 tiger range states pledged to double the number of tigers (Panthera tigris) in the wild by 2020. Today, non-tiger state Germany announced its assistance toward that end. Through its KfW Development Bank, the German government has pledged around $27 million (20 million Euro) to a new program run by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
"This generous support from Germany provides great hope for this iconic species, which is currently on the brink of extinction. Saving the tiger depends on restoring its rapidly shrinking forest habitat," says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General.
The monies will go to a five year program, dubbed the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme, which will divvy out funds to conservation groups and wildlife authorities in select tiger range countries.
Experts estimate that only around 2,500 tigers survive in the wild today, less than the number of tigers found in captivity in the U.S. alone and a 97 percent population drop from a century ago. The IUCN Red List categorizes the species as Endangered. Furthermore, out of nine subspecies, three are already extinct and two are listed as Critically Endangered.
The world's remaining tigers are imperiled by deforestation, habitat destruction, poaching for tiger parts, prey decline, disease, human-tiger conflict, and booming human populations across much of their range. As top predators, tigers are considered a keystone species for functioning, healthy ecosystems.
Countries eligible for the new program include: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.