India has been hailed for its “unprecedented commitment” to save tiger by a prominent United States-based wildlife body.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) also warned Asian governments that time to save their threatened species might be running out.

“India took responsibility for the tiger when it announced Project Tiger in 1972. By doing so, it sent a clear message that the fate of the wild tiger was in its hands and India alone would be held accountable for their future,” the Society said at the World Conservation Congress at Jeju in South Korea on Thursday.

“This almost unprecedented commitment led to one of the few examples of a major Asian species undertaking a sustained recovery,” it said.

“Today, while problems and challenges remain, India remains committed to ensuring that tigers are conserved effectively within its boundaries,” the Society said in a statement.

According to the tiger census report released on March 28, 2011 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority in India, the current tiger population was estimated at 1,706 (i.e. ranging between a minimum of 1,571 to a maximum of 1,875).

The results included figures from 17 Indian States with tiger population.

The organisation also noted the efforts of the Thai Government in taking responsibility for protecting its tigers by taking bold steps to overcome the poaching pressures in the Western Forest Complex.

A list of Asian species that are at a ‘conservation crossroads’ was also released by WCS calling for Asian governments to take immediate action with The Three Rs Approach: Recognition, Responsibility, Recovery.

The list includes tigers, orang-utans, Mekong giant catfish, Asian rhinos, Asian giant river turtles and Asian vultures.

Though each Asian species on the list faced daunting challenges from a variety of factors, including habitat loss and illegal hunting and trade, the WCS said Asian governments have the ability and financial means to turn the tide on extinction.

While there is hope for the tiger, species such as the orang-utan face a bleaker future with widespread conversion of its habitat into palm oil plantations that have decimated wild populations.

Asian rhinos and giant river turtles face relentless poaching pressure for the illegal wildlife trade, while Asian vultures have been nearly wiped out due to poisoning. Mekong giant catfish numbers have plummeted due to overfishing, it noted.

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