Nearly extinct, tigers can still be saved but efforts necessary for their survival face two huge obstacles: deforestation and the black market, where the big cats sell for $50,000 a piece.
A hundred years ago, they still numbered 100,000 and were spread across Asia, from India to China and passing through Russia. But today, even the most optimistic estimates find that only 3,500 tigers remain in the wild.
"Tigers are on a decline, they are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching," said Joseph Vattakaven, one of India's top tiger scientist.
The senior coordinator of Tiger Conservation for the World Wildlife Fund in India and a couple dozen other experts from Asia gathered at the National Zoo in Washington to exchange plans to preserve the species.
A symbol of power and ferociousness, the super predators are hunted down for their prized coat of dark vertical stripes over white and reddish-orange fur.
But poachers are also after the predators' bones, teeth, claws, whiskers and other organs used for traditional medicine and potions that allegedly boost sexual performance — think tiger penis soup — but also make a killing on the black market. Most of the clients are in China, according to Vattakaven.
"We have to stop the demand in China. People are not aware of how many tigers are in danger," he said.
"Everyone must be involved. We need to involve people of local communities" near tiger habitats to put a stop to poaching practices, he added.
Among the ideas offered up at the gathering organized by the Global Tiger Initiative: creating specialized patrols well-versed in poaching techniques that could dissuade or apprehend poachers.