Press Release: No.2008/357/EXC
Geetanjali Chopra: (202) 473 0243
National Zoo Public Affairs (202) 633-3055
International Tiger Coalition:
Sarah Janicke: (301) 442-3741
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2008 ─ A worldwide alliance of tiger conservationists, scientists and celebrities have joined forces with the World Bank Group and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to help save wild tigers.
Tiger numbers have declined from more than 100,000 a century ago to around 4,000 today. The decline is driven by a loss of prey and habitat due to uncontrolled development and poaching for the black-market trade in tiger skins and bones.
"Nothing short of global action will bring back wild tigers," said Grace Ge Gabriel, spokesperson for the International Tiger Coalition (ITC). “The ITC applauds the World Bank for focusing the eyes of the world on wild tigers and their needs."
The health of the tiger population is an indicator of biodiversity and a barometer of sustainability. Since tigers are at the top of the food chain, the conservation of wild tigers also means the preservation of the habitats in which they live and the prey populations that support them.
"Tigers occupy only 7% of their historical range and about 40% less than they did just a decade ago. Business-as-usual is not sustaining wild tigers today,” said John Seidensticker, Head, Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian's National Zoo. “All signs point to an impending tiger range collapse. I am pleased and encouraged that the World Bank and others are joining in our collaborative effort to find the ways and means so that wild tigers and no species are left behind in this time of unprecedented global economic expansion that threatens biodiversity"
The new Tiger Conservation Initiative, launched today at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., brings together many of the global experts who have been studying the decline of tiger populations and the many national and international NGOs which have been fighting to save tigers.
"Just as with many of the other challenges of sustainability—such as climate change, pandemic disease, or poverty—the crisis facing tigers overwhelms local capabilities and transcends national boundaries," said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. "This is a problem that cannot be handled by individual nations alone. It requires an alliance of strong local commitment backed by deep international support."
Harrison Ford, board member of Conservation International, who is putting his celebrity status behind the tiger initiative said: “By committing to help wild tigers, the World Bank is sounding its intention to be a global leader in biodiversity conservation. I commend this commitment and look forward to seeing it in action.”
The Tiger Conservation Initiative will start with a series of dialogues in tiger range countries to find out what has worked locally to protect the tigers. The World Bank and its partners will assess the financing needs of tiger conservation and work with governments and the private sector to find innovative funding sources and mobilize new resources for the species’ protection.
"The countries in the range of the tiger are amongst the most important for GEF globally in delivering global biodiversity benefits. By partnering with them in a major effort to conserve quality habitat, this initiative will be pursuing outcomes in conservation, ecosystem services, and livelihoods" said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairman, Global Environment Facility.