By Gethin Chamberlain
Leaders of the few remaining countries where tigers are still found in the wild are preparing for a make-or-break summit in Russia, which they believe offers the last chance to save the critically endangered animal.
The Global Tiger Summit in St Petersburg next month will bring together the 13 countries that still have wild tigers, along with conservation organisations, in an attempt to thrash out a global recovery plan. Britain and the US are also being urged to attend.
The WWF (formerly the World Wide Fund for Nature) says it is optimistic about the summit's chances of success, but warns that failure will lead to the extinction of the tiger across much of Asia. The draft communique for the summit, seen by the Observer, notes that in the past decade tiger numbers worldwide have fallen by 40% and warns that "Asia's most iconic animal faces imminent extinction in the wild".
It concludes: "By the adoption of this, the St Petersburg Declaration, the tiger range countries of the world call upon the international community to join us in turning the tide and setting the tiger on the road to recovery."
The challenge was illustrated clearly last week when hidden camera footage showed the destruction of part of the Sumatran tigers' Indonesian forest home to make way for illegal palm oil plantations. Meanwhile, in Singapore undercover officers seized several tiger skins that had been advertised for sale online.
Organisers of the summit, which is backed by the World Bank, hope agreements can be reached that will lead to a doubling of tiger numbers by 2022. More....