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Category: Big Cats

Vladimir Putin gives Leonardo DiCaprio high marks at Russian Tiger Summit

DiCap ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Leonardo DiCaprio braved scary skies to get to a summit devoted to saving the world's tigers, donating $1 million to the cause and earning high praise from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Hollywood star arrived in St. Petersburg on Tuesday after two flight dramas, Putin said, just managing to make the meeting where officials from the 13 countries where tigers still live in the wild agreed to a program to save the iconic big cats from extinction.

DiCaprio was one of more than 200 people aboard a Moscow-bound Delta Air Lines flight that had to return to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday when other pilots reported seeing a flash in one engine of the departing plane. The actor then took a private jet that had to land in Finland early Tuesday for refueling because of strong wind, Putin said.

"Not everyone would be willing to take a plane again after what Mr. DiCaprio experienced, but he did," he told the audience at a rock concert dedicated to the tiger conservation effort. "Here, in Russia, we call such a person a 'real man'."

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Demand in China for tiger parts poses greatest threat to wild tigers, experts say at Russia summit

Tiger Summit

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Demand for tiger parts in China poses the greatest threat to tigers in the wild, international experts said Monday.  The illicit trade in the world's largest felines is run by organized crime outfits.

About 150 tigers are killed each year by poachers -- 5% of the world's wild tiger population, Yuri Fedotov, head of the U.N. office on drugs and crime, told participants at a summit meant to address the animal's rapid population decline.

He said tiger poaching brings $5 million in profits.

"Often, crimes against wildlife are related to money laundering, violence, and in some cases could even be tied to terrorism," Fedotov said. "Only our common operations will help stop the trade."

Tigers once roamed most of Eurasia from the Tigris River to Siberia and Indonesia. But in the past century, the number of countries that are home to tigers has dropped by nearly half, to 13 from 25, and three of the nine tiger subspecies have become extinct. The World Wide Fund for Nature and other experts say only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

Russia is among the 13 countries with remaining tiger populations, and the St. Petersburg summit is hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He has bolstered his image by posing with a cuddly cub and placing a tracking collar on a full-grown female in the country's Far East.

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Political leaders, wildlife experts to gather in Russia for Tiger Summit aimed at saving big cats

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — Global wildlife experts and political leaders from 13 countries on Sunday open a meeting aimed at finalizing complex and costly plans to revive the world's tiger population, which has plummeted so sharply that it may be near the point of no return.

Although the fierce and wily tigers may be the epitome of power in their natural habitat, they have seemed nearly helpless against man. The World Wide Fund for Nature  and other experts say only about 3,200 of the big cats remain in the wild, a severe plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.

Their forest habitat is being eaten up by timber operations and construction, while poachers stalk the dwindling tiger populations, killing them for their skins and for body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine. The wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic said in a report this month that more than 1,000 parts of tigers slain by poachers across Asia had been seized in the past decade.

"The Tiger Summit is our last best chance to ensure a future for these animals in the wild," Ginette Hemley, a WWF vice president, said in a statement Thursday.

The summit, which ends Wednesday, is hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has adroitly used encounters with tigers, polar bears and other wildlife to bolster his image, and was driven by the Global Tiger Initiative that was launched two years ago by World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

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Battle over captive tigers in Cancun, Mexico, may soon be over

Pepe Tiger

MEXICO CITY — Cancun's "Pepe Tiger" may soon lose his big cats and his dream of opening a zoo near the sun-soaked Mexican resort city after a decades-long battle that has seen a mauling, animal cruelty charges and even claims of national sovereignty.

Mexican officials are preparing to remove the eight tigers and two jaguars kept by Jose Juarez Gil -- or "Pepe Tiger" -- saying they are being kept in unsafe conditions. That accusation is denied by Juarez Gil, who says he loves the cats and lets them swim and run in his makeshift animal refuge on the road to Cancun's airport.

He vowed Wednesday to fight their removal, saying he will appeal the latest seizure order.

"Do you think I am going to just leave my whole life behind?" asked Juarez Gil.

His surreal tale began in the 1980s, when police started turning over to him tigers and jaguars seized from the private zoos of drug traffickers and other criminals. In the following decades, shopping malls and luxury apartments sprang up around his land on the outskirts of Cancun, but he has stubbornly refused to give up his animals or his property.

Court appeals had allowed his improvised refuge to limp on, despite what authorities and U.S.-based groups said were bad health and diet conditions for the big cats.

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Over 1,000 body parts from poached tigers were seized in Asia over the past decade, report shows

Tiger

BANGKOK — More than 1,000 parts of tigers slain by poachers across Asia have been seized over the past decade, raising fears that the big cats are headed for extinction, says a new study by a key wildlife trade monitoring group.

The report says most of the tiger parts -- including skins, bones, skulls and penises -- were seized in India, China and Nepal and were destined for use in traditional medicines, decorations and even good luck charms.

A major trafficking route, uncovered in recent years, begins in India, home of half the world's tigers, and ends in China, where tiger parts are highly prized as purported cures for a range of ailments and as aphrodisiacs. Experts say China's economic boom has helped fuel the illegal trade, with more Chinese able to afford the expensive tiger products.

The report by TRAFFIC said between 1,069 and 1,220 tiger parts were seized in 11 of the 13 tiger range countries in the decade ending April 2010.

"A paradigm shift in terms of commitment is needed against forces driving one of the most legendary species on Earth to extinction," said the report, seen Wednesday.

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China issues new suggested practices for zoos following allegations of widespread animal cruelty

China Bears

BEIJING — China has urged zoos to stop serving wild animal products and holding wildlife performances in an attempt to improve the treatment of tigers, bears and other animals amid concerns over widespread abuse in zoos and wildlife parks.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development posted the suggestions on its website Tuesday and said inspections would be carried out to see if zoos were complying.

Animal welfare groups have documented widespread abuse in Chinese zoos and wildlife parks, including animal neglect, beatings, and the illegal sale of wine or soup made from the bones of endangered tigers.

The Hong Kong-based animal welfare group Animals Asia Foundation released a report in August that said bears in Chinese zoos were regularly whipped and beaten with sticks, while elephants were prodded with metal hooks, and tigers and lions were defanged and declawed, causing them chronic pain.

Earlier this year, 11 rare Siberian tigers died at a wildlife park in China's frigid northeast and zookeepers there said they didn't have enough funding to feed or take care of them properly. Rights groups said the zoo might have been selling the tiger skins and bones on the black market.

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Your morning adorable: Amur tiger cub and Sumatran tiger cub come to (playful) blows in German zoo

TigerCubs1

It's a tiger-cub extravaganza at Germany's Wuppertal Zoo.

Tschuna, an Amur tiger cub born there in August, has been joined by Daseep, a Sumatran tiger cub born at the Frankfurt Zoo in September. Both cubs were rejected by their mothers and have thus far been hand-raised by keepers at their respective zoos. The zoos decided the best thing for them was to allow them to live together, so Daseep recently made the move from Frankfurt to Wuppertal.

"This is important so that both tigers can get on with others belonging to their own kind in the future and hopefully start a family of their own," Manfred Niekisch, director of the Frankfurt Zoo, told Agence France-Presse earlier this month.

Daseep (at left in the photo above) was a surprise birth; her mother, Malea, was believed to be infertile. She and Tschuna are important new additions to their respective tiger subspecies, both of which are endangered.

See more photos of the cubs at play after the jump!

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Lion cubs go for their first swim at National Zoo

Lion cub swim class at the National Zoo

At the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., four lion cubs born in late August had their first swimming lesson Tuesday. Why would lion cubs need a swimming lesson, you ask? Good question. When the cubs move with their mother, Shera, to an outdoor enclosure (likely to happen in late December), they'll find themselves surrounded by a water-filled moat. Keepers wanted to ensure their safety by making sure they'd be able to swim should they accidentally fall in.

According to the zoo, the swimming test was a success, with all four cubs -- three females and one male, if you're wondering -- managing to perform a passable dog paddle. (Is there a different name for a dog paddle if it's performed by a cat? "Lion paddle," perhaps?)

The cubs swam under the supervision of the zoo's great cats curator, Craig Saffoe, and two keepers, Rebecca Stites and Kristen Clark. The litter is the first for 4-year-old Shera, who has shown herself to be an excellent mother, according to the zoo. The cubs are expected to stay at the National Zoo until they're about 2 years old, zoo staff explained in an online chat held last month; when they reach sexual maturity, they'll move to other zoos to participate in conservation breeding programs.

After the jump, check out more photos and video of the cubs' first swim session. If you're still hungry for more photos and video of these guys, the zoo has more photos on its Flickr page and even offers a webcam so you can watch the cubs in action. (As we write this, the babies are nursing, and it's hard to take our eyes off the cuteness long enough to type.)

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Tigers could be extinct in the wild within 12 years, environmental experts say

Tiger And Cubs The world's tiger population could soon be extinct because of poaching, shrinking habitats and the use of tiger parts in Eastern medicine, environmental experts warned Friday.

World Wide Fund for Nature spokeswoman Marie von Zeipel said the world's biggest wild cat is one of the most threatened species and could face extinction within 12 years. The organization estimates there are only 3,200 tigers in the wild -- with Von Zeipel noting that the wild tiger population has shrunk 97% in 100 years.

"If nothing drastic happens, the [population] curve is heading straight for disaster," she said.

Her comments came after the wildlife organization hosted a seminar in Stockholm about the plight of wild tigers.

WWF is running a campaign to double the wild tiger population by 2022. It is urging nations to help protect tiger habitat and to prevent poaching of tigers and their prey.

Russia, which has its own Amur tiger population, is holding a global tiger summit next month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will host the four-day meeting in the city of St. Petersburg, attended by wildlife experts and delegates from the 13 countries where tigers are still found in the wild.

[Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the World Wide Fund for Animals; the organization is actually the World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as the World Wildlife Fund. We've corrected the error.]

RELATED TIGER NEWS:
Camera trap shows bulldozer clearing trees in Sumatran tiger habitat, environmentalists say
Key breeding grounds must be protected to save tigers from extinction, according to researchers

-- Associated Press

Photo: Two Bengal tiger cubs rest beside their mother at the Villa Lorena animal sanctuary in Colombia. Credit: Carlos Ortega / European Pressphoto Agency

Camera trap shows bulldozer clearing trees in Sumatran tiger habitat, environmentalists say

Sumatran Tiger

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An environmental group has released video footage of a bulldozer buzzing trees in a protected forest that is home to endangered Sumatran tigers, but the government said Wednesday that it remained unclear whether the land-clearing was illegal.

Another image showed one of the majestic cats walking through what is now a barren, muddy landscape.

Ian Kosasih, a director at WWF-Indonesia, said the camera trap was installed last year in a plush corner of Bukit Batabuh, a forest in Riau province that is protected from commercial exploitation, so experts could study tiger populations and the threats they face.

"When we set the trap, there was just a path there," he said, adding that there was no way of knowing who was to blame for the land-clearing or their motivation. "But it seems like they were preparing it for a palm oil plantation."

There are only around 3,200 tigers left in the wild worldwide.

But the Sumatran tiger, which today numbers around 400, is the most endangered subspecies, largely because of illegal poaching and the destruction of the tigers' habitat for palm oil and wood pulp plantations.

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