By Lesley Wroughton on AlterNet.org
World Bank President Robert Zoellick called on Wednesday for joint action among countries and organizations to save the dwindling numbers of wild tigers from extinction.
There are barely 3,500 tigers left in the wild. Their declining numbers are blamed largely on poaching and the slow destruction of their natural habitat by deforestation.
"2010, the Year of the Tiger, must be the year in which we take joint action to save this majestic species," Zoellick said at a photo exhibition by the National Geographic Museum, which focuses on the plight of endangered tigers and other big cats.
Zoellick has a personal passion for the conservation of wild tigers. Visitors to his office at the World Bank headquarters in Washington are directed to a table map showing the decline of wild tigers in the world, with troubled areas shaded in red and orange.
The World Bank, whose mission is to reduce global poverty, sees its role as trying to improve conditions in developing countries, which in turn would help to preserve the tigers' habitat.
Through the "Global Tiger Initiative," an alliance of governments and more than 30 international agencies, the World Bank has been working with countries such as India and Nepal to set aside more land for tiger habitat.
In South-East Asia the bank is working with groups to address the black market for body parts from tigers, common in countries like as China.
"Part of what this is about is getting people not to see development and conservation as opposing poles but how you can try to connect them together," Zoellick told Reuters Insider Television.
"By working with the countries in the developing world, that's the best chance to save this species, which after all is in the developing world."
A World Bank report in 2008 warned that "if current trends persist, tigers are likely to be the first species of large predator to vanish in historic times."
A summit in September in Vladivostok, Russia, will try to push for conservation commitments for the world's remaining tigers. (Editing by Chris Wilson)