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Asia

Will the Tiger Summit save the tiger?

Both organizational and financial decisions were taken at the summit, but above all, it was a clear declaration of intent to save the world's most charismatic and most iconic animal.

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The Royal Bengal tiger

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright/ In the forests of the night,/ What immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" The 18th century English poet William Blake had written. Two centuries later, the brightest flame of the world's forests is flickering and is on the point of extinction.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao were in St. Petersburg in Russia to attend the first summit to save the world's last wild tigers, numbering a mere 3,200 now, down from 100,000 a century ago.

The call by Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin to world leaders to save the tiger came exactly at the right time:

"It's not just about the tiger. We, the heads of state and of governments, must understand how imporant it is preserve nature," he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was equally unequivocal: "We must react, work together and decide on concrete steps to save the tiger."

The magic formula

Sibirischer Tiger

The Siberian tiger

Volker Holmes, the Director of Species Conservation at the Worldwide Fund for Nature, Germany, attended the four-day summit. 'Double the number,' seems to have been the magic formula, he explains: "The heads of state and governments decided on the Global Tiger Recovery Program, which is something like an action plan that will make sure in the coming 12 years, until the next year of the tiger in 2022, that the tiger population is able to double. And the second decision was a declaration by the heads of state, which is somehow the umbrella for the action plan."

Tiger in Südchina

The South China tiger

The action plan will concentrate on preserving and improving the tiger's habitat by preventing poaching and deforestation. Financial commitments to the extent of $350 million were made.

"It will be important that these countries, the range countries meet, including the donor countries and donor organizations. And for example, during the next 12 years that they have succeeding meetings to monitor what has happened, what is possible, are there still funding gaps open for immediate action and so on," Holmes added regarding monitoring.

The tiger's foes...

Indonesien Tiger Flash-Galerie

The Indonesian tiger

Ravi Singh, head of WWF in India, pointed out that the tiger's enemies were well known: "Basically there are three: one is the illegal trade in not just tiger, but the killing of its prey. The second important issue is the fact that there is a lot of human conflict at the peripheries of these areas. And the third is the fragmentation of habitat. The land space for tigers is actually decreasing."

And friends

But he was more optimistic regarding the outcome of the St. Petersburg summit: "The tiger forum brought to the fore fairly firm statements by leading political leaders of several nations... has sent out a fairly good message to the world in terms of the importance of conservation and highlighting the issue of the tiger. In our (WWF's) view, the ability to influence political leadership and the ability to influence the direction of economic and financial support to some of the conservation and the projects which are happening on the ground is very very important."

India's legendary tiger shikari Jim Corbett once described the tiger as "a large-hearted gentleman with boundless courage". He already warned about tiger's extermination back in the middle of the 20th century. Let us see whether we can prevent such a tragedy in the 21st.

Arun Chowdhury

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan

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