Hollywood celebrities Harrison Ford, Bo Derek and Robert Duvall Monday threw their support behind a new global initiative by the World Bank to save tigers from extinction.
A coalition led by the World Bank launched a global initiative here Monday, in an attempt to save wild tigers.
The Tiger Conservation Initiative teams up leading scientists, NGOs, governments, and the private sector to promote tiger conservation. It will initiate a series of high-level country dialogue workshops in the tiger range states, and promote international cooperation.
According to its plan, the initiative will host a "2010 Year of the Tiger" summit.
By now, tigers occupy only 7 percent of their historical range and about 40 percent less than they did just a decade ago, according to Dr John Seidensticker, head of the Conservation Ecology Center at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C. Tiger numbers have declined to around 4,000 from more than 100,000a century ago.
The decline is driven by the loss of prey and habitat due to uncontrolled development and poaching for the trade of tiger skins and bones in the black-market.
"Just as with many challenges of sustainability -- such as climate change, pandemic disease, or poverty -- the crisis facing tigers overwhelms local capabilities and transcends national boundaries," said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick at the launch ceremony at the zoo.
"Nothing short of global action will bring back wild tigers," said Grace Ge Gabriel, spokesperson for the International Tiger Coalition (ITC), a partner of the initiative.
The health of the tiger population is an indicator of biodiversity and a barometer of sustainability. Since tigers are at the top of the food chain, the conservation of wild tigers also means the preservation of the habitats in which they live and the prey populations that support them.