Tigers may be first large predators to vanish: World Bank

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New Delhi, Jun 12 (UNI) Poaching is today the most immediate threat to the survival of tigers, whose numbers have dwindled to just 4000 from one lakh within a century, says a World Bank report.

In fact, if the present trends continue, tigers may be the first species of large prdators to vanish in historic times, it said.

The study finds several faults with the present management of tiger reserves in countries like India in South and East Asia.

''The inconvenient truth is that under current management systems, wild tigers are silently slipping away. Well-intentioned international, national, and regional support for tiger conservation over the last decade has not reversed the decline in tiger populations,'' it said.

In many of the tigerrange countries, the political will to address these concerns is limited, and conservation remains under funded and a low policy priority,'' said the Report.

The prescribed penalties for poaching tigers are typically harsh and often punitive. But in practice enforcement is weak, and poachers and traders are seldom brought to justice, it said.

Poaching has become so intense that entire tiger populations have been eliminated from what were once deemed to be secure reserves throughout Asia, says the report issued on the launch this week of a new Tiger Conservation Initiative of the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility which has been joined in by conservationists and scientists from all over the world.

Though the trade in tiger organs for traditional oriental medicines has been banned, it still flourihes and tigers are being killed.

According to the Report, the illegal international trade in wild tigers remains highly profitable, well structured and has close links to other organized crime.

The World Chinese Medicine Society has declared that tiger parts are not necessary in traditional medicines, and legitimate traditional medicine practitioners no longer use tiger products, but there remains a persistent and growing illegal market.

The existing wild populations of tigers inhabit fragmented and isolated patches of land constituting a meager 7 percent of their historic range.

Protected areas, the stronghold of tiger conservation efforts in South and East Asia, are rarely large enough to ensure their survival.

With the multiple pressures of poaching, prey depletion, forest degradation, and habitat loss, tigers have become an enforcement-dependent species, the Report said.

''To secure their future in the wild, they must be given protection from poaching and adequate land with sufficient prey.

This requires financial and material resources and a strong policy commitment to conservation.'' The study recognises that conservation of endangered species vulnerable to poaching was a costly exercise. For example, in United States the federal budget for conservation was approximately 20 dollars per hectare. In contrast, expenditure on protection in Indonesia is as low as 1 US dollar per hectare and about 2 to 3 US dollar per hectare in India.

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