While rangers patrol huge territories on bicycles armed with 1920's weapons, tiger poachers roam with modern GPS technology and brand new vehicles, killing tigers into extinction.
The Tiger Summit which started on Sunday, sought to change all this. Top politicians from 13 countries, such as India, China and Indonesia, gathered in St Petersburg, Russia, hosted by PM Vladimir Putin. The goal is to reverse the declining rate, and to double the population by 2022, under the Global Tiger Initiative. A purposed $330 million to be spent over the next five years to fund equipment and people.
Leonardo DiCaprio, a hands-on advocate for tiger preservation, announced today that he will donate $1 million of his own money.
According to Moscow Times, there are only an estimated 300-400 Amur Tigers left in the world. Some species have already gone extinct.
Only three percent of the wild tigers remain alive today than from a century ago, and three subspecies — Bali, Javan, and Caspian — have become extinct. Since 1998, conservation efforts have not worked, with a further one third population declining. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild. And the ones that are left occupy only seven per cent of the range they used to have, according to a DJ report.
Tigers now occupy only 7 percent of their former range which once stretched all the way from Turkey to the northern and eastern reaches of Russia and extended south into India and the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra.
Besides being hunted for their skins, the Chinese use tiger body parts as medicine and an aphrodiasic. This year is the Chinese Year of the Tiger, with the next one being not until 2022, ironically the same year that tigers are expected to go exinct.
Other threats include deforestation of their natural habitat, for timber and to build roads.
Putin is a well known animal advocate. His government site lists three special projects design to add protection for the Amur tigers, the polar bear and the dophin-like White whale. Putin was presented a Siberian tiger as a birthday gift in 2008, but opted to donate it to the zoo instead.
High-level political will, habitat protection, and anti-poaching efforts does work. An example is India in the 1970's.
WWF engaged then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi behind this massive effort. This led to the Indian government launching Project Tiger and establishing a high-level Tiger Task Force to rebuild tiger populations.
Within months, several now world-famous tiger reserves were established... By 1979, the campaign had expanded to 11 tiger reserves, with a further 4 added subsequently... tiger censuses showed the population had increased.
However, lack of funding since then have seen tigers diminish and a renewed effort is needed. Less than 1,300 tigers remain in India.
Also endangered is the Amur leopard. While it is rare to find leopards in the cold, this subspecies can be found in the far eastern Russia and on its border of China and North Korea. There are only thirty five of these animals left in the wild.
A riveting informative video can be viewed here. Though lengthy, it shows on-site footage of the tiger's environment, and the heartfelt efforts of dedicated people who wish to preserve their legacy.