Mekong tigers plummet to only 350

Posted: 26 January 2010

Tiger numbers have fallen by more than 70 per cent in slightly more than a decade in the Greater Mekong, with the region's five countries containing only 350 tigers, according to a new report.

The WWF report says the tiger populations in the Greater Mekong region o South East Asia - an area that includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam - have plummeted from an estimated 1,200 during the last Year of the Tiger in 1998 to about 350 today.

Indochinese tiger
Indochinese tiger
The Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) is only found in the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Photo © Choong Joon LAI / WWF Greater Mekong
This decline is reflected in the global wild tiger population, which is at an all time low of 3,200 - down from an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 during the last Year of the Tiger. The report states that increasing demand for tiger body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine and habitat fragmentation from unsustainable development have driven the decline of the region's Indochinese tiger population.

Tigers on the Brink, released today, comes as leaders from tiger range countries prepare to meet for the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Hua Hin.

"Decisive action must be taken to ensure this iconic sub-species does not reach the point of no return," said Nick Cox, Coordinator of the WWF Greater Mekong Tiger Programme. "There is a potential for tiger populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to become locally extinct by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022, if we don't step up actions to protect them."

Indochinese tigers historically were found in abundance across the Greater Mekong region. Today, there are no more than 30 individual tigers per country in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The remaining populations are predominantly found in the Kayah Karen Tenasserim mountain border between Thailand and Myanmar.

However, despite these negative trends there is still time to save the Greater Mekong's tigers, says WWF. The region contains the largest combined tiger habitat in the world. Forest landscapes spanning 540,000 km2, or roughly the size of France, are priority areas for current tiger conservation efforts.

Tiger and other skins confiscated at Heathrow Airport
Tiger and other skins confiscated at Heathrow Airport
Tiger and other skins confiscated at Heathrow Airport, London. Photo: © Edward Parker / WWF-Canon
"This region has huge potential to increase tiger numbers, but only if there are bold and coordinated efforts across the region and of an unprecedented scale that can protect existing tigers, tiger prey and their habitat," said Cox.

The first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, which runs from January 27-30, is part of a global political process to secure the tiger's future. These efforts will culminate in a Tiger Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, this September, to be hosted by Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and co-chaired by the World Bank's President Robert Zoellick.

Related links:

WWF - Mekong tigers

Flagship species: Tigers

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