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Interview with Igor Chestin

Igor Chestin, the CEO of the World Wild Life Fund, Russia, joined RT to discuss how to protect tigers from extinction.

Russia Today: What are the main present day dangers threatening the population of tigers?

Igor Chestin: Like for any endangered species, there are three groups of dangers. Loss of habitats is one of them. The second group of threats is direct elimination by humans, primarily poaching, and the third group is the status of the prey base, the species tigers feed on. Looking specifically at the poaching problem we are very much worried about the discussions which are going in China now about lifting the ban on trade on tiger parts. In China there are a number of tiger farms where tigers are specifically bred for their parts which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. But we do not want this trade to be re-opened in China because that would impose a major threat for wild populations.

RT: What is being done to preserve or may be even increase the numbers of these beautiful animals?

I.C.: A  recent success that I can mention is the establishment of two national parks in the Russian Primorsky Region this year. We were lobbying for the creation of these parks at WWF for the last seven years and took active part in the design, and finally the parks were adopted early this summer. The third park which we have also been lobbying for for several years, is now being organised in the neighbouring Khabarovsk Region. It will cover about 200 hectares of tiger habitats. With these three parks established, we will say with confidence that the habitats of tigers are preserved for a long period of time. As for increasing the number of tigers, we cannot expect that now because at present, tigers occupy nearly the whole area that they actually can occupy biologically. However, their number can be increased still if we manage to increase the amount of their prey species like wild boar, elk, moose. These species are now in quite a desperate situation as well due to over-hunting.

RT: What can be each person’s personal contribution to preserve these animals?

I.C.: I think people both in Russia and abroad are already taking an active part in helping tigers not only to survive but also to prosper. People make donations which are used for patrol brigades support, these are anti-poaching brigades which control the habitats; this money is also spent on improving the infrastructure and capacity of the protected areas in Russia that play the key role in preserving tigers. So, there are a number of ways to help tigers.