India has been hailed for its 'unprecedented commitment' to save the endangered tiger by a prominent United States-based wildlife body.
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation society also warned Asian governments that time to save their threatened species might be running out. "India took responsibility for the tiger when it announced Project Tiger in 1972. By doing so it sent a clear message that the fate of the wild tiger was in its hands and India alone would be held accountable for their future," the society said at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea on Wednesday.
"This almost unprecedented commitment led to one of the few examples of a major Asian species undertaking a sustained recovery," it added.
"Today, while problems and challenges remain, India remains committed to ensuring that tigers are conserved effectively within its boundaries," it said in a statement. According to the tiger census report released on March 28, 2011 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in India, the current tiger population was estimated at 1,706 (i.e. ranging between a minimum of 1,571 to a maximum of 1,875).
The results included figures from 17 Indian states with a tiger population. The organisation also noted the efforts of the Thai government in taking responsibility for protecting its tigers by taking bold steps to overcome the poaching pressures in the Western Forest Complex.
A list of Asian species that are at a 'conservation crossroads' was also released by WCS calling for Asian governments to take immediate action with The Three Rs Approach: Recognition, Responsibility, Recovery. The list includes the tiger, orangutans, Mekong giant catfish, Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles, and Asian vultures.
Though each Asian species on the list faces daunting challenges from a variety of factors including habitat loss, and illegal hunting and trade, WCS said that Asian governments have the ability -- and financial means -- to turn the tide on extinction.
While there is hope for the tiger, species such as the orangutan face a bleaker future with widespread conversion of its habitat into palm oil plantations that have decimated wild populations.
Asian rhinos and giant river turtles face relentless poaching pressure for the illegal wildlife trade, while Asian vultures have been nearly wiped out due to poisoning. Mekong giant catfish numbers have plummeted due to overfishing, it observed.
The society warned that time is running out for Asia's wildlife, noting that two large mammal species the kouprey, a type of wild cattle once found in Southeast Asia, and a Chinese freshwater dolphin species called a baiji, have gone extinct.