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Artist attends Tiger Summit

WORLD renowned Chinese artist and sculptor, Yuan Xikun and the International Fund for Animal Welfare staged a special exhibit of tiger paintings on November 21 at the historic palace where the four-day Tiger Summit was held in St Petersburgh, Russia.

About a dozen of Yuan's powerful tiger paintings, which blend the elegant brushwork of traditional Chinese calligraphy painting with Western art forms, will be on display throughout the summit to inspire the political will and commitment to action needed to protect tigers from habitat loss, rampant poaching and trade.

"I have been committed to the cause of tigers for more than 40 years and this may be our final chance to save them from extinction," Yuan said. "I hope my art will inspire passion and personal responsibility that will translate into meaningful national and global action to protect one of the world's most magnificent species."

A chance encounter with a wild tiger in a remote Chinese forest in the 1970s inspired the artist on a life-long mission to champion wildlife and the natural world. Since then Yuan has become internationally renowned for his paintings and sculptures of animals, like polar bears and tigers, depicting many endangered species on our planet.

In 2007, he created a giant bronze tiger, 21 meters long by 12 meters high, for the Beijing Zoo. The work, titled Patron Saint of Forest, is considered the world's largest tiger sculpture.

"Tigers are the patron saints of the forest. With tigers come blessings to the planet," Yuan said. "By safeguarding tiger habitats and protecting tigers from poaching and trade, we are ensuring a healthy and blessed future for our children."

Yuan is no stranger to the international political scene. He has achieved international acclaim for his series of paintings and sculptures of world leaders, from Bill Clinton to Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro, which have been collected and exhibited by institutions, governments and museums worldwide. He also serves on a high-level citizens advisory committee consulted by the Chinese government on political affairs and policy. His works are often given by the Chinese premier as State gifts.

"The biosphere has been damaged and human beings are suffering from what they have done," Yuan said. "We must help people discover the real beauty of animals and connect with the natural world. This is my mission as an animal painter."

Tigers were once common in at least 25 countries. However, due to lack of conservation and large-scale poaching and tiger product trade, 97 percent of the tiger population has vanished in the last 100 years.

Today as few as 3,200 wild tigers remain in just 13 nations such as Bangladesh, China, India and Russia.

During this year's summit, children from tiger range countries in Asia were joined by youngsters from the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East in calling on participants to take a stand, make a commitment and "Save the tigers!"

Officials from those 13 countries also signed a declaration aimed at saving the iconic big cat from extinction. The new accord stipulates that the nations will strive to double the tiger population by 2022, crack down on poaching and illicit trade in tiger pelts and body parts.


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