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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 02:44 GMT
Tiger numbers 'halve in 25 years'
A South China Tiger called Cathay is pictured in the Laohu Valley Reserve in the Free State province, South Africa
The WWF said there were an estimated 3,500 tigers left

The world's tiger population may have halved in the past quarter of a century, conservationists from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have warned.

The WWF told a conference in Stockholm there might be only 3,500 tigers left, and that one sub-species, the South China Tiger, could soon be extinct.

Chinese demand for tiger body parts - used in traditional medicine - was described as one of the main threats.

But the WWF said if proper measures were taken, tiger numbers could rise.

Conservationists have recently bought up land concessions from governments in an effort to combat the destruction of forests still inhabited by tigers.

'Human-tiger conflict'

The WWF's co-ordinator in Nepal, Bivash Pandav, painted a bleak picture as he described the problems facing tigers across the world, saying he believed there were some 3,500 tigers left, compared with an estimated 5,000-7,000 in 1982.

In many ways the tiger stands at a crossroads between extinction and survival, and which path it takes is totally dependent on us
Sujoy Banerjee
WWF India

The director of WWF India's species programme, Sujoy Banerjee, said that at the beginning of the 20th Century there were an estimated 40,000 tigers in India, but that there were now no more than 1,400 - 60% fewer than in 2002.

Mr Banerjee said a serious threat to the remaining tigers came from poor Indian farmers who are determined to protect the livestock that they depend on.

"Whenever there is human-tiger conflict, the ultimate loser is the tiger," he said.

The situation in Indonesia was described as critical, with loggers having laid waste to vast tracts of the habitat of the Sumatran Tiger - the next most threatened sub-species.

Based on current trends, more than 90% of the country's forests may have been destroyed by 2050, the group said.

"In many ways the tiger stands at a crossroads between extinction and survival, and which path it takes is totally dependent on us," Mr Banerjee warned.

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