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October 17, 2010

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Home » Feature » Animal Planet

Roar footage wanted to save tigers

FOR those who love and care for animals, improving wild tiger conservation efforts is the perfect way to honor 2010, the Chinese Year of Tiger.

Teaming up with the National Zoological Animal Museum of China and the popular video website Ku6, the International Fund of Animal Welfare launched this year's Animal Action Week on October 1 in Beijing, with the theme of protecting the wild tiger.

People are encouraged to upload home-made videos that promote tiger protection in various forms, be it poetry, music, dance or short plays, even recordings of tiger roars, to the Ku6 website. The videos will be collected with entries from 15 other countries and sent to the Global Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia in November. The summit will be the first international event ever held to bring together the heads of 13 tiger-inhabited countries to discuss the preservation of the animal.

"Tigers are recognized as a flagship species, the disappearance of which would be a devastating strike to the whole eco-system. So protecting tigers means protecting all species including us human beings," said Li Bai, a firm environmentalist who hosted the opening ceremony of this year's Animal Action Week.

Lin is active in environmental protection. He used to be a volunteer sailor with Greenpeace, the leading non-government environmental organization in the world.

It has been 17 years since the IFAW first unveiled its yearly Animal Action Week in 1993. As one of the most influential international organizations committed to animal welfare, the IFAW aims to raise awareness around the world, especially among young people, to help endangered animals and protect the habitats for those species. Themes for the annual week have varied from wild animal trade to the protection of specific species, and this year it focused on wild tiger conservation.

As the flagship species at the top of the food chain, tigers play a vital role in preserving the balance of the ecosystem and ensuring the biodiversity of our beautiful planet. Most wild tigers live in dense forests, which provide the ideal habitat for various flora and fauna.

Crowned as the king of wild animals, wild tigers are actually quite vulnerable now that they are on the brink of extinction, threatened by rapidly reducing habitats, limited prey and the increasingly rampant illicit trade of tiger products.

Statistics show current wild tiger habitats are 40 percent less than 12 years ago. So far, Asia has only about 3,000 wild tigers remaining, while China, home to four kinds of Asian tigers, now has no more than 50 wild tigers left on its territory, of which the most endangered are South Chinese tigers.

Aside from natural factors, the illegal tiger product trade driven by huge profits poses a greater threat to these precious creatures. The lucrative profits gained from selling wild tiger parts, including skin, bones, organs and other derivative products triggered restless tiger poaching in countries such as India and China. Tiger bones were considered a valuable medicinal material in traditional Chinese medicine for acclaimed tonic effects.

In 1993, China banned the trade of tiger products through legislation, removing tiger bones from the official pharmacopeia and curriculum, and launched campaigns to raise public awareness so as to reduce the demand for tiger parts.

However, greedy businessmen still flout the trade bans and go after wild tigers. At the beginning of this month, 25 individuals were arrested by Interpol for taking part in the illicit trade of tiger parts.

More than 50 kilos of tiger bones were seized in raids, and key smuggling routes were broken up across six countries, including China, India, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The two-month operation involved national enforcement agencies in the countries mentioned and was coordinated by Interpol's Environmental Crime Program.

"The tiger products trade stimulates wild tiger poaching, pushing wild tigers to the edge of extinction," said Grace Gabriel, IFAW's Asia Regional Director.


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