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Cambodia's Tigers Are 'Functionally Extinct'

Cambodia's tiger population is now “functionally extinct”, according to experts.

The announcement came earlier this week, when conservationists spoke candidly about the rampant poaching which has led to declining numbers of both tigers and their prey, reports the Guardian. According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the last tiger in Cambodia was seen on a camera trap in 2007 in the eastern part of Mondulkiri province.

“Today, there are no longer any breeding populations of tigers left in Cambodia, and they are therefore considered functionally extinct,” WWF wrote in a statement.

However, there is some hope. Last month, the Cambodian government approved a plan to reintroduce tigers into Mondulkiri protected forest. To start, conservationists are aiming to release two male tigers as well as five to six female tigers, a project which will require up to US$50 million to implement. Cambodian forestry officials are also asking India, Malaysia and Thailand to provide small populations of tigers.

Moving forward, Cambodian officials and conservationists alike acknowledge the need for strong law enforcement in order to keep the project running. At present, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates the global tiger population at 2,154 creatures.

In 2010, a consortium of 13 nations pledged to double their tiger populations by 2022.

The same countries will meet in Delhi from April 12 to 14 to discuss their progress.

[Photo via Patrick Bouquet]

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