By Sarah Davison
The Chinese Year of the Tiger is shaping up as anything but a celebration for one of the world's most magnificent animals. India is reporting an abrupt increase in the number of tigers killed by poachers who feed China's insatiable appetite for wild tiger parts.
"What we're seeing is a species slipping through our fingers because of the non-co-operation of a single nation, and I think that's very sad indeed," said Belinda Wright, the executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). "As a conservationist and an environmentalist, their stand and their attitude is appalling. And very tragic, actually." Last week, India's government-led National Tiger Conservation Authority described 2009 as "a very bad year", revealing that 86 tigers were killed, more than double the number in 2008.
A further four deaths occurred in the first two weeks of this year, three of them before January 6. The World Wildlife Fund warned yesterday that the wild tiger faced extinction in China itself after its numbers have been drastically cut by poaching and the destruction of its natural habitat. "If there are no urgent measures taken, there is a high risk that the wild tiger will go extinct," Zhu Chunquan, the conservation director of biodiversity at WWF China, said.
Mr Zhu said China's State Forestry Administration estimated that there were 50 tigers left in the nation's wilderness. India only has 1,000 tigers left, despite strenuous efforts to protect an animal that in the country is a symbol of national pride. More than 100,000 tigers prowled India's forests 100 years ago, but decades of hunting and habitat encroachment meant that by the 1970s the number had been drastically reduced. More....