Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The tiger could become extinct within the next 20 years because of the continuous fur trade and the destruction of forests. This was the warning launched by experts at the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop 2009, an international meeting of scientific associations which concludes today in Kathmandu. "It 'amazing that an animal like the tiger, symbol of religious and cultural diversity in all of Asia, is living a tragic situation," said Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Nepalese prime minister in his opening speech on 27 October.
According to scholars, there are now only 3,500 tigers in the forests of 12 countries in Asia. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were over 100 thousand specimens. The main causes of this decline are deforestation, over the past decade more than 40% of the tiger habitat has been destroyed and indiscriminate hunting. The latter is not only fuelling the illegal trade in fur, but also the sale of body parts of the animal, used in traditional Asian medicine. The international organization Save The Tiger has estimated the turnover linked to the black market at 13.5 billion euros a year.
The meeting was attended by over 200 representatives from 20 countries including India, China, Russia and the United States. The goal is to establish a common line of action between the various Asian countries to stop deforestation and smuggling.
Jhon Seidensticker, scientific director of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington said: "Our challenge is to ensure that protected areas are greater than those subject to poaching. We have only 10 years to solve the problem".
Shiv Ray Bhatta an officialof the Nepal Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation says that "one of the key points of the meeting was to strengthen the commitment of Asian countries and the international community, in the joint monitoring of borders and the future development of concrete strategies to stop hunting and illegal trade linked to the tiger ".
In order to protect surviving specimens, delegates from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan have signed an agreement providing for the establishment of a permanent observatory on the hunting and illegal trade in tigers. It will be based in Nepal and will serve the entire South Asia.