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Tiger, tiger, going extinct?

Chinese help is critical to protect India’s tiger population and Beijing needs to control the market for big cat skins and body parts, a leading Indian conservation official said yesterday.

India, home to the world’s largest tiger population, had about 40,000 of the animals a century ago. Now, government figures say that about 3,700 survive, although some conservationists say the number could be less than 2,000, largely due to uncontrolled and illegal killing of these animals to feed a huge demand for tiger skins and parts in China an Tibet.

India and China signed an agreement in 1995 to help conserve the tiger but experts say it has been of little help. Next week, a team of Chinese officials is visiting India for talks to renew efforts under the pact, said Rajesh Gopal, the head of India’s state-run conservation agency, Project Tiger.

The Chinese team will also visit a tiger park to study conservation efforts.

Tiger parts such as bones and penises are used in traditional Chinese medicine and a single tiger can fetch up to $50,000 in the international market.

REUTERS. Vancouver 24 hour. May 18, 2006. p. 10.

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