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World Leaders Hold Summit to Save Tiger

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

Hundreds of conservationists and world leaders gathered in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday to figure out a plan to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hosted Sunday's summit of 13 nations with severely threatened tiger populations. Their goal at the 4-day summit is to create a common agenda they can use to finance and carry out ways to protect the endangered animal.

Participants hope to agree on means to finance secure habitats, enforce strict anti-poaching laws and educate the public so they will not harm tigers.

Russia has become an example of how concentrated efforts can protect the endangered beasts. Russia had less than 100 tigers about six decades ago, but now has seen its tiger population surge to 500.

Aside from Russia, other nations participating include India, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

The summit comes just days after a wildlife advocacy group said black markets selling body parts of tigers are flourishing along the Burmese border.

In a report issued Friday, British-based Traffic International says a decade-long probe discovered hundreds of tiger and leopard parts from more than 400 individual animals were sold in the Burmese town of Mong La, near the border with China, and the Thai-Burmese border town Tachilek.

The illegal traders sold animal skins, bones, skulls, claws, teeth and genitals. The parts are sold for a variety of purposes, including medicines, good-luck charms or home decor.

Traffic International issued a study last week that says more than 1,000 tigers have been killed across Asia in the past decade. The poaching occurred in 11 of the 13 countries where tigers live in the wild, most of them in India, China and Nepal.

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