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Tiger Trade Slashes Big Cats' Numbers

Only 350 wild tigers remain in Asia's Mekong River region, according to a new report from the conservation nonprofit WWF, which says the loss is being driven by trade in tiger parts.

© 2010 National Geographic; video courtesy of Education for Nature Vietnam and WWF Greater Mekong


Unedited Transcript

The numbers of tigers in the wild in Southeast Asia have dropped by more than 70 percent in a little more than a decade.

That’s the claim in a new report from the WWF. The organization says there were an estimated 12-hundred tigers in the Greater Mekong region during the last “Year of the Tiger” in 1998. Today, WWF estimates there are only about 350 there.

Wild tigers have even been wiped out in several reserves set up to protect them.

The Greater Mekong region includes China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The reason for the drop? WWF says the tiger crisis has developed because of deliberate and large-scale illegal hunting of tigers for body parts, mostly for use in traditional medicine. Here, tiger parts are seen displayed for sale on a street in Bangkok.

Enforcement of poaching has had limited success, such as these scenes from Vietnam where illegally poached tigers and carcasses were confiscated by authorities. The WWF hopes to raise awareness and funds to stop the poaching.

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. And later this month, ministers from 13 tiger range countries will meet in Thailand for a conference on tiger conservation. It’s hoped the governments will agree on future needs in protecting this big cat from extinction.