The campaign aims to help raise awareness about the threats to tigers and raise funds for tiger preservation efforts.
In honor of the Year of the Tiger, a goal of $20 million has been set for the campaign with the vision of doubling the world's wild tiger population by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.
Leonardo DiCaprio (Photo by Tom Munro/JBG Photo courtesy Save Tigers Now)
"Tigers are endangered and critical to some of the world's most important ecosystems," said DiCaprio, whose environmental foundation will provide support to the campaign.
"Key conservation efforts can save the tiger species from extinction, protect some of the planet's last wild habitats and help sustain the local communities surrounding them. By protecting this iconic species, we can save so much more," he said.
DiCaprio will be traveling to Asia with WWF experts to see the threats tigers face. He will participate in anti-poaching patrols, meet with park guards on the front lines of protecting tigers from international traffickers, and explore the best ways to protect wild tigers.
The new Save Tigers Now website will allow visitors to follow DiCaprio's journey and participate in the effort to save tigers.
"Give tigers enough space and protection and they'll recover," said WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts. "But public support means everything and changing laws and ending demand for tiger parts means we need to tell their story - in places like the U.S., India and China."
"Which is why this partnership with Leonardo is so important," said Roberts. "He can reach the public, tell this story to our children and engage leaders around the world - to save tigers now."
Wild tiger in Ranthambore, Eastern Rajasthan, India (Photo by Alex Clayton)
Tiger populations are shrinking fast as the species is threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching; their skins, bones and other body parts are used in many cultures as medicines, talismans, status symbols and clothing.
More than 90 percent of historic tiger habitat is no longer inhabited by tigers. Three tiger sub-species have gone extinct since the 1940s and a fourth, the South China tiger, has not been seen in the wild for 25 years.
But tigers can thrive if they have strong protection from poaching and habitat loss and enough prey to eat, Roberts says.
Tigers are globally listed as endangered and trade in tigers and their parts is supposedly controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. However, tigers face numerous threats.
For instance, In April, suspected members of a Chinese poaching gang were captured by Russian border patrol agents after illegally entering a tiger sanctuary near Kymen-Rybolov, a Russian village near the Chinese border.
On the WWF list of the Top 10 tiger Troublespots issued as the Year of the Tiger began in February, the conservation group highlights many threats to tiger survival.
Pulp, paper, palm oil and rubber companies are devastating the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia, which are inhabited by two endangered tiger sub-species.
Hundreds of new or proposed dams and roads in the Mekong region will fragment tiger habitat.
Illegal trafficking in tiger bones, skins and meat feeds a continued demand in East and Southeast Asia.
And more tigers are kept in captivity in the United States than are left in the wild, WWF points out, warning that there are few regulations to keep these captive tigers from being traded on the black market.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.