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Sep 062012
 

From Green Right Now Reports

Tigers, extinct? It’s not only possible, it’s likely, especially in the many nations that have yet to take action on behalf of this majestic animal.

Malayan Tiger cubs (Photo: Julie Larsen Maher, WCS.)

But the tiger is just one in a long list of animals on the brink released by the Wildlife Conservation Society today. These animals, familiar to people the world over, include the intelligent and playful orangutan, the Mekong giant catfish, ancient Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles and Asian vultures. The WCS is urging nations where these animals are facing annihilation to take responsibility for them and begin recovery programs.

WCS released the list in advance of the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, set to begin Sept. 13, in Jeju, South Korea.

Their message is that these animals can be left to become extinct or they can be saved, like the North American bison, which was hunted to the precipice and then brought back through recovery programs. The bison were taken into breeding programs at the Bronx Zoo and then released into the wild in the early 1900s.

Mekong Catfish, threatened by overfishing (Photo: WCS)

Like the bison, some of the Asian species on the list have been over-hunted (the tiger), but most also have suffered greatly from habitat loss, such as the orangutan whose native palm forests have been cleared for palm oil.

Saving these animals presents big economic challenges, but the WCS conservationists say they’re confident the nations involved have the tools and wherewithal to save the species at risk.

“As in the United States, it will not be the species themselves deciding which fork [in the road] to take, but actions of humans using the three R’s: recognition, responsibility and recovery – recognizing the problem, taking responsibility for solving it, and putting species back on the path to recovery,” said WCS President and CEO Dr. Cristián Samper, in a statement.

WCS credited India with taking major steps to save the tiger, starting Project Tiger in 1972 and prompting a sustained recovery for the animal. Thailand also has acted to stop poaching in the Western Forest Complex. The tiger has been hunted and poached for the exotic wildlife trade, depleting the population from more than 100,000 animals 100 years ago to only 3,500 left in the wild ranging over 13 Asian nations.

It’s obvious that India alone cannot save this iconic predator, the conservationists said.

Orangutan mother and child in the wild in Malaysia (Photo: Eleanor Briggs, WCS)

But while the plight of the tiger has won some recognition, the orangutan and other creatures have yet to benefit from strong conservation efforts organized by their home countries. In the case of the orangutan, a booming trade in palm oil is causing their deaths as global corporations buy up forests and convert them to plantations that cannot sustain wildlife.

They’ve also lost their lives as forests are claimed for logging, leaving only about 6,000 in Sumatra, where they once flourished. They are among more than a dozen primates worldwide facing imminent danger of extinction in the wild.

The primates have found refuge in wildlife parks in Indonesia, but their populations are fragmented and remain in jeopardy. (There are several groups working to save orangutans, such as the Save Orangutan Society in Great Britain, and the LA-based Orangutan Foundation International and the Rainforest Action Network.

The Asian rhino and giant river turtles, meanwhile, continue to lose their battle against wildlife poachers.

To learn more, visit the website of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which works worldwide to preserve wildlife and wild spaces, through education and management of a system of wildlife parks, including its flagship, the Bronx Zoo.