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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Nepal forum tackles fate of tiger
Indian tiger. File photo
The numbers of tigers are down to 5,000-7,000 in Asia
Tiger conservation experts are gathering in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, to discuss the future of the endangered species.

The conference is being organised by conservation group WWF and its wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic.

The forum is likely to see combative debate on the ethics of trading tiger skin and bones.

Poaching and pressures on the tiger's natural habitat have reduced their numbers in Asia to 5,000-7,000.

Bone debate

The conference delegates come from more than 12 countries, including tiger range states such as India, Russia and Indonesia as well as Nepal, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu says.

China has sent 17 people, but its position is controversial, our correspondent says.

In 1993, China banned the trade in tiger bone products, he says, but it has many tiger farms.

Conservationists say Beijing wants to lift its ban at the behest of influential Chinese businessmen.

They argue tiger bone has medicinal properties.

But some scientists say it barely differs from the bone of pigs, dogs or goats.

Supporters of the trade in tiger parts say it will bring prices down and reduce the incentives of poachers but their opponents say such commerce will only stimulate demand.

The conference will last until Friday.

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29 Apr 05 |  South Asia

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