Indiana Jones helps link tiger threat to global poverty
Harrison Ford traded his whip for the bully
pulpit Monday to make the case for saving tigers from extinction, which
environmentalists believe could have a serious impact on the world's ecosystem.
While he spoke for less than a minute, the star of Indiana Jones was the main attraction at a National Zoo event in Washington, attended by ambassadors and conservationists from around the globe and designed to re-launch an international effort to preserve the dwindling habitats of wild tigers.
Ford, who also sits on the board of Conservation International, pleaded with communities to help protect these "magnificent creatures," who lie at the top of the food chain and at the centre of the ecological systems they inhabit.
Tigers' roaming areas have been reduced to 7 per cent from historic highs, and have been cut 40 per cent since 1995 as hunters and deforestation have continued to eat away at their natural habitat in much of Asia.
India may now be the only country with the ability to maintain its tiger population in the long term, warned World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who sought to link efforts to save the species to wider development goals.
That means working with poorer communities eager to cut into forests and kill tigers for economic gain such as fur and even food. The challenge is to convince these groups that tigers are "more valuable alive than dead," Zoellick said.
"Conservation only succeeds when local communities are consulted and engaged" in the effort, added Ford, before mingling and signing autographs with a group of young school children on hand to witness the occasion, share artwork they had created and, of course, meet the action star.
"Awesome," said 8-year-old Scott Mulberry of meeting Indy, but added "too bad he didn't have the hat and the whip with him."
The National Zoological Park has five Sumatran tigers who also joined in the event, helping play "ambassadors" for their threatened wild brethren, according to the zoo's director John Berry, dpa reported.