Tiger populations plummet -- down 50% in 25 years

Tigers are at "a crossroads between extinction and survival" according to Sujoy Banerjee, director of the World Wildlife Fund India's species program. According to the WWF, tiger populations worldwide have dropped precipitously -- as much as half over the last 25 years.

The WWF estimates that there are now just 3,500 tigers left in the world -- down from 1982 estimates of between 5,000 and 7,500.

Tiger populations in India have been particularly hard-hit. The country now has 1,500 tigers, down 60% in just six years.

Still, WWF officials have hope for the tiger's future. According to Bivash Pandav, WWF's tiger coordinator, "We can easily have 10,000 tigers [in 10 years], if everything goes as per our wish." The most important steps to protecting tigers, according to the WWF, is the protect their habitats from deforestation and eliminating the market for traditional Chinese medicine.

(As we wrote last June, China has a legal market for farmed tiger parts, and is considering legislation to legalize trade of all tiger parts, regardless of the source.)

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