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DiCaprio to help save India's tigers

2010-09-25 14:11
 

New Delhi - Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio will put his fame to work to raise global awareness about India's dwindling number of tigers, an official said Saturday.

DiCaprio and India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh met at a reception on Friday in New York organised by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, an inter-governmental organisation.

"The actor met the minister and has expressed his interest to play a crucial role in sensitising the global community to the cause of the Indian tiger," a senior environment ministry told AFP in New Delhi.

"DiCaprio plans to come to India to be a part of the conservation efforts," the official said, asking not to be named.

India's endangered tiger population has plummeted to 1 350 - just over a third of the 3 700 estimated to be alive in 2002.

Earlier this year, Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan joined a campaign to protect the tiger.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, alarmed by the dwindling number of tigers, set up two years ago a national wildlife crime prevention bureau, drawing experts from the police, environmental agencies and customs to end poaching.

The government has enlisted former soldiers to be part of a "tiger protection force" in state-run sanctuaries.

But despite the new measures, poachers killed 32 tigers in 2009 and three this year, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Tiger hunting is illegal worldwide and the trade in tiger parts is banned under a treaty binding 167 countries, including India.

But demand is driven by China, Thailand, Myanmar and other Asian nations where pelts, claws and bones are prized in traditional medicine, environmentalists say.

- AFP

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