Page last updated at 18:15 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

South East Asia's Mekong tigers 'face extinction'

Tiger at a zoo in Bangkok, Thailand (file image)
Hunting and habitat destruction are blamed for the tigers' decline

A sub-species of tiger in Asia's Greater Mekong region is facing extinction unless decisive action is taken to protect it, WWF says.

The environmental organisation says the number of wild tigers in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma has declined 70% in 12 years.

It blames the decline on habitat destruction and a growing demand for tiger parts in traditional medicine.

The warning comes on the eve of a tiger conservation conference in Thailand.

The WWF's Tigers on the Brink report says that in 1998 - the last Chinese Year of the Tiger - there were an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 tigers globally, compared to 3,200 now.

It said the remaining Greater Mekong sub species is largely restricted to mountainous areas of Thailand and Burma, with no more than 30 tigers per country in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

"There is a potential for tiger populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to become locally extinct by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022, if we don't step up actions to protect them," said Nick Cox of the WWF.

"Decisive action must be taken to ensure this iconic sub-species does not reach the point of no return."

Mr Cox said there was "huge potential" for the region to increase its tiger population, if governments made efforts on an "unprecedented scale" to protect tigers, along with their prey and habitat.

The WWF is calling on ministers attending the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference (AMC) on Tiger Conservation in Hua Hun, Thailand, to commit to doubling the population by 2022.

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