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Helsinki Zoo raises over 40,000 euros in donations to support Amur tiger, leopard

September 20, 2011, 19:43 UTC+3

The donations were raised in two charity actions, the Night of Cats, on September 9 and 16, the zoo administration told reporters on Tuesday

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HELSINKI, September 20 (Itar-Tass) —— The Helsinki Zoo has raised over 40,000 euros in donations to support the Amur tiger and leopard population in the Russian Far East.

The donations were raised in two charity actions, the Night of Cats, on September 9 and 16, the zoo administration told reporters on Tuesday. Some 13,000 people attended the events this year. Only 350 Amur tigers and 35 Amur leopards are left now, the zoo said.

St. Petersburg hosted the International Tiger Forum last November, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin addressed the delegates.

A global program of tiger conservancy aims to double the tiger population by 2022, he said.

"It is very important that regional leaders are taking part in the salvation of tigers. The global program aims to restore the tiger population and even to double it by 2022. Besides, it is planned to broaden the tiger habitat. This is a difficult but feasible task," Putin said.

The global program is based on national projects of the Tiger Range Countries, but drafters say that it would require funding of $350 million in the first five years. The World Bank and some other international development banks, the Global Ecological Fund, private, corporate and international public organizations have expressed their readiness to be donors.

He urged the development of common approaches to nature conservancy.

"It is important to preserve this magnificent animal [tiger] for the next generations. But it is even more important to develop common approaches to nature conservancy and to elaborate common principles, which will promote the growth of economies and infrastructure and will also help us preserve these magnificent creations for the next generations," Putin said.

Putin also called for supporting developing countries, which are working to preserve the tiger population.

Many delegates to the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg said they needed assistance, as they experienced economic problems, Putin said.

"Certainly, it is difficult for such countries to preserve the tiger population," he said. "We must understand that and admit that these governments have a difficult choice between the growth of living standards [and nature conservancy efforts]. We must support the governments, which understand the importance of the problem we are discussing here," he said.

"Nature is also a habitat of humans, so we take care of people when we take care of tigers," Putin concluded.

Russia will tighten punishment for tiger killing and trade, Putin said.

A national strategy of preservation of Amur tigers has been approved in the country, he said. "The strategy requires the drafting of regional development programs, investment, construction and infrastructure projects," he said.

The Russian program of tiger conservancy "has started a growth of the tiger population. The number of Amur tigers, most of which live on the Russian territory, has grown by nearly ten times in the past 60 years. Today this population nears 500," he said.

"We aim at sustainable nature conservancy and review the structure of economic activities in areas populated by tigers," Putin said. "Several days ago Russia outlawed the logging of Korean cedar pine, which is vital for feeding boars and deer. If these animals leave the taiga, the tigers will have nothing to eat."

Putin also promised new research projects. "The Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Geographic Society have started up an extensive program for studying tiger biology. There is a joint action plan with Chinese colleagues. For instance, we will create transboundary zones for free movement of tigers. We have done the same for leopards," Putin said.

Consultations are underway with South and North Koreas, he said.

"Our country is ready to share its wealth [tigers]. Tiger families from Russia may help restore the tiger population in areas, where tigers have gone extinct, for instance, in Kazakhstan or in Iran," he said.

The Global Tiger Initiative was made in 2008, and it gained support of all the 13 Tiger Range Countries," he said. "It is symbolic that we have approved a global program for restoring the tiger population in the Year of Tiger. The program will coordinate national efforts, draw financial, managerial and technical resources and propel academic contacts," he said.

Tiger Range Countries pledge to abide by environmental demands, he said. "It is of paramount importance to integrate tiger conservancy into long-term socioeconomic development plans," Putin said.

Russia is interested in close cooperation with everyone who realizes their responsibility for nature conservancy and is ready to pool efforts, the premier said.

"The readiness of states for large joint projects and their adherence to preservation of tigers will be confirmed in a special declaration of the chiefs of state and prime ministers of the Tiger Range Countries," Putin said.

"While discussing the future of tigers, we are actually discussing problems vital for the entire planet and entire mankind. We say that sustainable development of civilization is possible only in case of environmental awareness," he said.

The presence of prime ministers and heads of many international organizations at the forum displays their readiness to develop a joint strategy and to take active steps in preservation of the tiger population, Putin said.

"The current situation is nearly catastrophic, as the tiger population has reduced by nearly 30 times, from 100,000 to slightly more than 3,000, in the past century. Three out of eight tiger sub-species have gone extinct," he said.

"It is our duty to pay our dues to nature, to save whatever can be saved and to correct our mistakes," Putin said.

People have always admired tigers and told legends about the tiger's might and beauty, he said. "At the same time, there was tiger trophy hunting, and hunters mercilessly killed adult animals and cubs," he said. "Tiger hunting has become a cruel amusement and a source of money. Egoistic economic activity, thoughtless use of forests and poorly considered infrastructure projects left a little chance for survival to tigers," he said.

Tiger Range Countries, financial and environmental organizations, whose representatives gathered for the Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg on Sunday with a goal to double the world tiger population by 2022.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world tiger population has reduced by 30 times to 3,200-3,500 wild tigers. Less than 100 years ago, tigers roamed across most of Asia. Their territory stretched from eastern Turkey to the Russian Far East, extending northward to Siberia and southward into Bali. In a relatively short period of time, humans have caused tigers to disappear from 93% of their former range and destroyed much of their habitat.

Only 7% of historic tiger habitat still contains tigers, and, at this rate, wild tigers will be extinct in just a few decades, WWF said.

Tigers used to live in 25 countries, but now they can be found only in 13 countries, among them Bangladesh, Bhutan, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Russia.

Extensive habitat loss and fragmentation has forced tigers to live in small, isolated pockets of remaining habitat, making it harder for tigers to reproduce. Increased road networks and reduced habitat size also leave tigers more exposed to poachers. The expansion of human activities in tiger habitat has led to overhunting of tiger prey species, WWF said.

Russia has a steady population of Amur tigers, Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Yuri Trutnev told the forum.

Russia had over 1,000 Amur tigers in the middle of the 19th century, but the population dropped significantly by the beginning of the 20th century and only 50 Amur tigers were left in the 1940s, Trutnev said.

"Eighty percent of all tigers were killed by hunters," he said. Deforestation and industrial development of the Russian Far East also added to the problem, the minister said.

The Soviet Union was the first country to ban the hunting of tigers in 1947, Trutnev said. Six nature reserves, three national parks and 13 conversation areas were formed in the Khabarovsk and Primorye territories for tiger conservation, he said.

As of now, the Amur tiger population in Russia, which is the home of 90% of all Amur tigers, has grown by nearly ten times. The number of Amur tigers varies from 428 to 502.

The national strategy of Amur tiger conservation, which was adopted in June 2010, set the goal of a viable tiger population of no less than 500 animals. Another two conservation areas will be formed with that purpose, including one jointly with China. It will be prohibited to log Korean cedar pine and logging of other trees will be limited within the tiger habitat. The population of hoofed animals will be increased. Measures against poaching and illegal tiger trade will be tightened.

"In fact, we plan to certify any tiger skins owned by individuals to make sure that these products are legal," Trutnev said.

"In the opinion of scientists, the current tiger population in Russia is steady and harmonious with the habitat and food supply. This population may grow, but not in geometric progression, the minister said in answer to the Itar-Tass question why Russia did not aim to double the tiger population by 2022 like other countries did.

"We simply started to fulfill this mission earlier than others," the minister said.

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