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National leaders gather for St. Petersburg Tiger Forum

The leaders of thirteen countries meet in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23 to sign a declaration committing them to saving tigers from extinction.

The issue has become an international concern in recent months, and is now a major environmental issue. B.C. author John Vaillant has become a key advocate thanks to his new book The Tiger.

The Tiger Forum is being covered by at least two websites. Russia's website Tiger Summit offers numerous links and other resources. Its home page explains:

Held in the United Nations Year of Biodiversity and the Asian Year of the Tiger, the Forum will endorse a Global Tiger Recovery Program of urgent and comprehensive national and international actions to double the number of tigers across their range, from 3,200 today to 7,000 by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

Many would say it is now or never for wild tigers. In the past century, tiger numbers plummeted from 100,000 to about 3,200 and continue to fall. In an organized transnational illegal wildlife trade, criminals earn large profits feeding illicit consumer demand for tiger parts and products; they take advantage of poor people living around tiger reserves to recruit poachers. People hunt the prey tigers need to survive. Adverse human activities, including commercial agriculture and infrastructure development, have replaced vast expanses of the tiger’s habitat and threaten to take it all.

Typically in most countries, the responsibility for wildlife conservation belongs to a single ministry or agency that is often underfunded. But counteracting the diverse threats to wild tigers will take the additional participation of many others, including those devoted to finance, the criminal justice system, land-use planning, and infrastructure development. Public support for protecting tigers and their landscapes is also essential. Thus, the Forum is important because it will signal to officials that political will and commitment exists at the highest level to eliminate these threats before the wild tiger’s extinction become inevitable.

Meanwhile, the Global Tiger Initiative offers more information, especially background reports in text, video, and interactive maps. It also has Twitter feeds and a blog.

The forum is being covered by media worldwide, including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Xinhua.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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