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Conservation Group Pledges Millions for Tiger Protection
A Malayan tiger cub. Just over 3,000 tigers remain in the wild across the planet.
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society.

On day two of the world's first Tiger Summit, now underway in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a U.S.-based organization, announced it will funnel millions of dollars over the next decade into tiger protection efforts within the countries where the endangered cats live.

In a statement to gathered dignitaries, scientists and representatives of all 13 countries where tigers are found, John Robinson, WCS's executive vice president for conservation and science, said his organization is committed to providing technical, logistical and financial support to partners working on the front lines to save tigers.

The historic meeting marks the culmination of a two-year effort, kick-started by World Bank President Robert Zoellick in 2008, to organize a workable, global strategy to save tigers from extinction. Only about 3,200 of the iconic species remain in the wild, spread across fragmented habitats in 13 Asian countries.

"Over the next 12 months, WCS will be putting close to $5 million onto the ground in Asia for tiger conservation," Robinson said. The funds will come from United States federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), from global institutions such as the World Bank, and from private donor organizations and individuals.

"Together we will be investing a minimum of well over $50 million in the next 10 years before the next Year of the Tiger," Robinson said. 2010 is the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

One goal of summit participants is to double the number of tigers living in the wild by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

"Let me stress again that WCS will work to ensure that all of these investments are targeted at on-the-ground efforts in tiger range states," Robinson added.

The Tiger Summit wraps up on Wednesday (Nov. 24). The summit's host, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, will attend meetings tomorrow (Nov. 23), along with other key leaders of tiger range states.