Smithsonian Institution and World Bank Group Join Forces to Save Wild Tigers from Extinction

The Smithsonian Institution and the World Bank Group today announced a new program under the Global Tiger Initiative to help stabilize and restore wild tiger populations and save this endangered species from extinction in its natural habitats.

Poaching, habitat loss and other issues have reduced the global tiger population in the wild to less than 3,500, and the losses continue. Under the new agreement signed today in a ceremony webcast from the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C., the World Bank and the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will establish and support a Conservation and Development Network that will train hundreds of rangers, foresters, and other habitat managers in the latest cutting-edge practices in biodiversity management, with a specific focus on preserving and increasing wild tiger populations. The World Bank will dedicate more than $1 million over the next year toward these training efforts, and the Smithsonian and World Bank will work to expand the alliance to include other members and raise additional financing for implementation. The Year-of-the-Tiger Summit is scheduled to be held in the second half of 2010.

G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, said, “Combining the Smithsonian’s scientific and conservation expertise with the World Bank’s 60-plus years of development knowledge will allow us to build a global network of leading scientists, policy makers and NGOs with the critical goal of saving the wild tiger”

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said, “We are very pleased to join with the Smithsonian in this important and innovative new effort. Without urgent action, the tiger could be extinct within the next 10 years. Working together, we can unite hundreds of conservation practitioners and dozens of institutions across the tiger range countries of Asia to arrest the terrible loss of tiger populations and bring these magnificent species back from the brink.”

The new Conservation and Development Network will link the leading knowledge institutions in China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, and other Tiger Range countries with globally significant centers of excellence in conservation science and professional training. The National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center located in the Shenandoah Mountains in Front Royal, Va., will serve as one of the initial launch-pads for development of the Network.

The training should also lead to more effective measures against illegal trade and trafficking of tiger parts, and intensify surveillance, detection and conviction of poachers. In addition to promoting stricter implementation of conservation laws and laws against illegal trade and traffic, the network should allow countries to more efficiently share information about poaching activity, leading to more robust efforts to combat the problem.

Steven Monfort, Acting Director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, said, “The loss of the tiger would have implications much larger than simply the loss of a charismatic species. The extinction of this top predator signifies irreversible changes in functioning of natural ecosystems and all the services they provide, in addition to the erosion of the cultural and spiritual values that are associated with the tiger. We’re very pleased to see this important next step in the progress of the Global Tiger Initiative.”

The agreement comes one year after the launch of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), a collaborative effort between the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institution, Global Environment Facility, the International Tiger Coalition, and other members to assist the 13 tiger range countries with their efforts in restoring wild tigers and preserving their habitats. Additional information about the GTI can be accessed through its new website