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Greater Mekong Tiger Numbers Have Dropped More Than 70 Percent in 10 Years

Only 350 Tigers Left Due to Poaching, Habitat Loss and Unsustainable Development


WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2010 – Tiger numbers have fallen by more than 70 percent in slightly more than a decade in the Greater Mekong, with the region’s five countries containing only 350 tigers, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released today.

Tigers on the Brink: Facing up to the Challenge in the Greater Mekong comes as leaders from tiger range countries prepare to meet for the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Hua Hin, Thailand. The conference is part of a year-long effort to save wild tigers during the Chinese Year of the Tiger, which begins February 14.

Tigers on the Brink states that tiger populations in the Greater Mekong – an area that includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – have plummeted from an estimated 1,200 to about 350 since the last Year of the Tiger in 1998.

This decline is reflected in the global wild tiger population, which is at an all time low of 3,200 - down from an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 during the last Year of the Tiger. The authors state that increasing demand for tiger body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine, along with habitat fragmentation from unsustainable regional infrastructure development have driven the regional decline of the Indochinese tiger population.

“Indochinese tigers are in trouble, so we need decisive action during this Year of the Tiger,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, director of the WWF-US species program. “Otherwise, by the time the next Year of the Tiger comes around in 2022, we could face local extinctions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.”

Historically, Indochinese tigers were found in abundance across the Greater Mekong region. Today, there are no more than 30 individual tigers per country in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The remaining populations are predominantly found in the Kayah Karen Tenasserim mountain border between Thailand and Myanmar.


However, despite these negative trends there is still time to save the Greater Mekong’s tigers. The region contains the largest combined tiger habitat in the world. Forest landscapes spanning 208,000 square miles -- roughly the size of France -- are priority areas for current tiger conservation efforts.

“While the decline in numbers is worrisome, this region has such a huge potential to increase tiger numbers,” Klenzendorf said. “However, this will only happen with bold, coordinated efforts across the region to protect existing tigers and their habitats.”

At the Hua Hin meeting, WWF is calling on ministers of the 13 tiger range countries to accelerate efforts to double the numbers of wild tigers by 2022. Tiger range states include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Hua Hin ministerial meeting, which runs from 27-30 of January, is part of a global political process to secure the tiger’s future. These efforts will culminate in a Tiger Summit in Vladivostok, Russia, this September, to be hosted by Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and co-chaired by the World Bank’s President Robert Zoellick.

“Tigers are such an iconic species in the Mekong region and this Year of the Tiger offers an unprecedented opportunity to turn the tide in their favor,” said Dekila Chungyalpa, director of the WWF-US Mekong Program. “We need to seize this opportunity and stop the trade in tiger parts and rampant poaching while also securing critical tiger habitat.”

Additional information:

The report, high quality footage and maps are available for download at:

High quality photos are available to download at: 

For more information about WWF’s Year of the Tiger campaign, go to:

For more information about the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation meetings, visit