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13 Asian Nations Pledge to Save Wild Tigers

Ministers of Forestry and Natural Resources from tiger range countries leave a news conference at the International Tiger Forum at Mariinsky palace in St.Petersburg, Russia, 21 Nov 2010

Thirteen Asian nations, including Russia, China, and India, have signed a pledge to save the dwindling wild tiger population.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hosted leaders and top officials from 12 other Asian governments in St. Petersburg Tuesday for the four-day International Tiger Forum.

Mr. Putin told the meeting it is important to preserve what he calls a magnificent animal for future generations.

He said he wants to see the number of Asian tigers in the wild doubled by 2022. He called that goal difficult, but said it can be reached.

The prime minister also called for financial help for developing countries working to save tigers.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told the forum that to make these efforts a success, it is necessary to bolster an international crackdown on poaching and the illegal global trade in tiger parts.

Experts say the demand for tiger skins and other tiger body parts, which some believe have medicinal purposes or increase sexual performance, has contributed to pushing wild tigers to the edge of extinction.

Wildlife experts say the number of wild tigers has plummeted from 100,000 a century ago to about 3,200.

In addition to Russia and China, the 11 other countries taking part in the St. Petersburg forum are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.