Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 11:45 UK

Euro MPs urged to save tigers

Tiger (Image: Michael VIckers/EIA)
Figures show that only about 2,500 breeding tigers remain in the wild

MEPs are being urged to use their influence to force nations with wild tiger populations to halt poaching and the illegal trade in tiger parts.

The European Parliament's first Tiger Day is being held to focus attention on the plight of the endangered animals.

Scientists estimate that only 2,500 breeding adults are left in the wild.

However, campaigners say tiger numbers could reach 10,000 within a decade if attempts to protect the animals receive additional support and resources.

'Tiger farms'

There are growing fears among campaign groups that some nations, such as China, could soon legalise the trade in farmed tiger parts.

"A few Chinese businessmen who invest in industrialised tiger farming are petitioning the government to lift a 15-year trade ban that has successfully reduced the market for tiger parts used in traditional Chinese medicine," said Grace Ge Gabriel from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).

Tiger farm (Image: Save the Tiger Fund)

"Overturning the trade ban would open the floodgates of consumption, and stimulate more poaching of wild tigers."

Dirk Sterckx, a Belgian MEP and chairman of the Parliament's Delegation to China, said it was "absolutely essential" for China to support the international efforts to save wild tigers.

"I would urge the Chinese authorities to fulfill their international obligations by declaring their commitment to the 1993 ban on the trade in tiger parts," he commented, "and by destroying existing stockpiles of tiger parts."

Alasdair Cameron, from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), called for the phasing out of China's tiger farms.

"It is essential that all parties, including the European Parliament, do all that they can to prevent the extinction of the wild tiger and other Asian big cats," he said.

During the course of Brussels Tiger Day, which is being hosted by UK MEP Neena Gill, politicians are being invted to a range of events, including a meeting with a number of the world's leading experts on tigers.

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