Washington, June 10 : Actor Harrison Ford, who has portrayed the fictional "Indiana Jones" on the silver screen, has endorsed a new global tiger initiative, which will take a hard look at existing projects in tiger habitats, review existing efforts to combat the trade in illegal tiger parts, and develop alternative funding for saving tigers, among other strategies. According to a report in National Geographic News, the project is a World Bank-led tiger conservation initiative that will draw on the collective might of the world's nonprofits, governments, and local citizens to prevent tigers from completely "slipping away."
Harrison Ford, vice chair of the board of directors of the nonprofit Conservation International, one of the groups that will participate in the new plan, emphasized that local people should have a say.
"I recognize that these projects work more efficiently and more sustainably when local communities are involved," Ford told National Geographic News. "That's the general reality of the situation," he added.
"I've seen how conservation outcomes are scaled up when a variety of people pool together to apply their influence," said Ford.
As Asian economies flourish, the demand for tiger meat and parts for traditional Chinese medicine and trophies has wiped out most of the tigers living in reserves.
The big cats, which once prowled most of Asia, have already disappeared from Central Asia and almost all of China.
The predators have plummeted from 100,000 to 4,000 in the past century and now occupy only 7 percent of their original range. The urgent, immediate threat of poaching continues to whittle down that number," said Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank Group.
"If wild tigers are to be saved, they must be seen as more valuable alive than dead," said Zoellick. "Because tigers are at the top of the food chain, their health is an indicator of biodiversity and a barometer for sustainability," he added.
In general, tigers can recover if their habitat is protected, according to conservationists.
Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East have bounced back to a stable population of about 500 thanks to vigorous conservation efforts.
According to John Seidensticker, a conservation biologist at the National Zoo, tigers will rebound only with strong political will and only if everyone involved-from local people to governments.
Conservation projects largely remain under funded and low-priority in many tiger-inhabited countries.
"A world without tigers would be a world without hope," said Seidensticker. "It would be like a clear night sky without stars," he added.