VLADIVOSTOK, Russia, Sept. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As thousands of Russians prepare to celebrate annual Tiger Day festivities this weekend from Moscow to Vladivostok, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) is launching a public awareness campaign, Will Only Words Remain?, to promote tiger conservation throughout the Russian Far East, home to the last few hundred Siberian (Amur) tigers.
"Tiger Day provides an opportunity for the Russian people to celebrate tigers and better understand their plight," said Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia. "This is also a good time to remind the Russian government that they must stay focused on their commitment to tiger conservation, or only words, not tigers, will remain."
The world's wild tiger population has plummeted by 97% over the past century; as few as 3,000 survive in small pockets of scattered habitat in 13 Asian countries.
Just 10 months ago, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin brought together the leaders of tiger range countries in St. Petersburg to forge a new global plan with specific commitments and time-lines to save these critically-endangered animals. However, Russia has not yet joined the Global Tiger Forum, which is the world's only intergovernmental organization dedicated to tiger conservation.
"Tigers are in dire trouble. No single government or organization can save this critically-endangered species on its own," said Vorontsova. "It's time for Russia to join the Global Tiger Forum and continue the momentum of the St. Petersburg summit by working with all tiger range countries to conserve critical habitat, stop poaching and end all trade in tiger body parts and products."
During Tiger Day celebrations at the Moscow Zoo on September 24 and in Vladivostok on September 25, IFAW is partnering with the US Embassy to present a new U.S. postage stamp featuring an image of an Amur tiger cub. The special stamp, which was first unveiled in the United States on 20 September, will cost 11 cents more than regular U.S. stamps. The extra money generated will go toward an international conservation fund for some of the most threatened animal species around the globe: elephants, rhinoceros, great apes, marine turtles, as well as tigers.
For more than 10 years, Russia's Tiger Day has been organized annually on the last Sunday in September by regional and municipal governments in partnership with IFAW, Phoenix Foundation, the Amur branch of WWF, AMUR Fund, and corporate sponsors. Officials, celebrities, musicians and thousands of local people take part in Tiger Day parades, festivals, education programs and concerts throughout the country.
IFAW works on the front lines of tiger protection in Russia by supporting and equipping ranger teams that have been instrumental in reducing poaching of tigers and their prey in protected reserves of the Russian Far East. IFAW has also trained and equipped more than a third of India's anti-poaching force.
To promote cross-border cooperation among wildlife enforcement teams, IFAW conducts bilateral trainings and visits between Russian and Indian rangers to share best practices about tiger conservation.
"These 'Tiger Watch' exchanges are especially meaningful for Russian rangers," said Vorontsova. "Wild tigers are so rare in Russia that most of our anti-poaching rangers have never seen one alive."
At Tiger Day in Vladivostok this Sunday, IFAW will announce the names of the two Russian rangers from the region who have earned a spot on the next Tiger Watch exchange with India in February 2012.
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare