Tigers that once roamed much of Asia are dying at a rate of perhaps one a day because of deforestation and poaching, bringing them closer to extinction, the World Wide Fund for Nature said Thursday.
The number of tigers remaining in the wild could be as low as 4,600, down from 5,000 in 1994, the wildlife group said.The Switzerland-based group said a major threat to tigers was an increased illegal trade in tiger bones, skin and other parts for traditional Chinese medicines.
The tigers of Indochina have been hit particularly hard. Huge forest tracts have been opened to logging in Cambodia; tigers continue to be illegally killed in Vietnam; and hydroelectric power projects are planned for two areas where tigers roam in Laos.
In India, where up to two-thirds of the world's tigers live, the WWF estimates that up to 400 tigers of a population of fewer than 3,000 may have been killed by poachers last year. Indonesian authorities reported in 1995 that poaching of Sumatran tigers was virtually "uncontrollable."
Three of the eight subspecies of tigers - the Caspian, Javan and Bali tigers - have become extinct in the past half-century.
Of the five remaining subspecies, the South China and the Siberian tigers are believed to be most at risk. Fewer than 50 South China tigers and some 200 Siberian tigers are thought to remain in the wild.