Countries with remaining tiger populations are gathering on the Indonesian island of Bali this week to finalize a formal agreement to end tiger poaching and preserve tiger habitats in an effort to prevent the big cats from sliding into extinction.
2010 may be the Year of the Tiger, but there are few reasons to celebrate. According to the World Wildlife Fund there are fewer than 3,200 tigers living in the wild. Poaching, illegal trade, loss of habitat and conflict with humans has pushed the majestic beast to the brink of extinction.
The head of the World Wildlife Fund's Tiger Initiative, Michael Baltzer, says systematic and large-scale illegal hunting has decimated tiger populations across Asia.
"It really is a tipping point, because basically we feel that if the trend continues as it is now, the tigers could be extinct throughout much of their range by the next Year of the Tiger," he said.
In a bid to halt this decline, leaders from 13 nations with remaining tiger populations are gathering in Bali this week to discuss a plan to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.
The Bali meet is a prelude to the Heads of Government Summit to be held in St. Petersburg in September, at which a formal agreement is expected to be ratified.
Funding for the conservation projects is expected to come from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and individual donor countries.
Indonesia is home to about 400 Sumatran tigers. There the loss of habitat has resulted in growing conflict between tigers and humans.
The tiger population in India has dwindled to 1,400, largely because of poaching. The WWF estimates there are fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China.
Tigers once roamed the island of Bali too, but were hunted into extinction in the late 1940s.