It is critical that governments, conservationists, and individuals answer the question posed in yesterday's Guardian article, "One Last Chance: Can We Save the Tiger?" With an unequivocal, yes! Yes, we can save the tiger and yes, we must save tigers.
Yes, the situation for tigers is dire, with as few as 3,000 remaining in the wild. Yes, the upcoming tiger summit in Russia is an important step toward protecting tigers. It's the first time that we have the heads of the countries where the last tigers live all paying attention at the same time to this critically-endangered species. And yes, all the talking and politicking must then translate into action that puts real teeth into tiger protection.
The organization I head, the International Fund for Animal Welfare is committed to saving tigers. We are sending a delegation including myself, senior advisors and experts from China, Russia, and India to the summit, which is being hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Joining him are heads of government from tiger range states, high-level officials from other countries supportive of tiger conservation, including the United States, and representatives of more than a dozen international conservation organizations and institutions.
This summit provides a critical opportunity for all the organizations and governments working to protect tigers to agree on a global tiger recovery plan and outline what we all can bring to the table to support the efforts of the countries which are home to the last wild tigers.
We must find new ways of working together around the world to eliminate the consumer demand for tiger parts and to crack down on illegal trade in tiger parts. But in the end, it falls to the tiger range states to protect the few remaining tigers from poaching, which is the single greatest threat to their survival.
More than simply attending the summit, IFAW has placed teams on the ground to train anti-poaching brigades in Russia, in China, we have investigated the trade in products made from tiger bones, skins and parts, spearheaded public awareness campaigns to reduce consumer demand, and successfully achieved a ban on buying and selling wildlife products by Taobao, China's largest online shop.
In India, IFAW and our partner, the Wildlife Trust of India, is a member of the Core Working Group of the Global Tiger Forum, the only intergovernmental coalition for tiger conservation. We have equipped and trained more than 7,000 wildlife guards, a third of India's anti-poaching force working in protected tiger habitat, and created Greater Manas, tripling a World Heritage Site and Tiger Reserve.
IFAW calls on all the organizations committed to saving the tigers, to come together at this summit and beyond to open dialogues with range states and find out how best the World community can help the people on the front lines to protect the world's tigers. It's not too late.