Can Indiana Jones help save tigers?

June 10, 2008

World Bank President Robert Zoellick (L) and actor Harrison Ford take part in the launch of the Tiger Conservation Initiative at the National Zoo in Washington June 9, 2008. The initiative will bring together wildlife experts, scientists and governments to try to halt the killing and thriving illegal trade in tiger skins, meat and body parts used in traditional Asian medicines. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES)Indiana Jones and the World Bank sound like an odd couple to get anything done (“Quick, shoot that robber!” “Wait, we have to do a two-year feasibility study first!”) but are part of a new alliance trying to save the world’s tigers. (Read my colleague Leslie Wroughton’s fine story here)

Will it work? Tigers are under threat from loss of prey and habitats and a black market in tiger skins and bones.

And tiger numbers have plunged to about 4,000 today from more than 100,000 a century ago, according to the new International Tiger Coalition, led by the World Bank with backing from celebrities such as “Indiana Jones” star Harrison Ford, Bo Derek and Robert Duvall. Ford is a board member of Conservation InternationalA tiger at London Zoo peers through the bars of its cage, January 20, before a photo-call arranged to publicise Britain’s role in a global campaign to save the endangered species. Tiger numbers are dwindling worldwide, as the use of tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine increases. HP

A World Bank report warned that “if current trends persist, tigers are likely to be the first species of large predator to vanish in historic times.”

So far the ideas for saving tigers have obviously failed and tigers raised in farms (there are more tigers in captivity around the world, in countries including the United States and China, than in the wild) often get too flabby and lazy to be introduced into the wild.

And conservationists say fast economic growth in China may raise demand for traditional tiger parts, used as cures for everything from colds to rheumatism.

 Trying to make people aware of the threats to wildlife, the Humane Society, for instance, urges you to take a pledge not to buy items made from wild animal parts or to buy them as pets.

Do you have any good ideas to halt the slide? Please tell us.

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