From: Reuters
Published August 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Key Facts about Asia's Endangered Animals

San Francisco-based WildAid launched a campaign on Wednesday using Chinese basketball star Yao Ming to convince people in China to be more aware of conservation issues and to stop eating shark fin.


Here are some facts on four of Asia's endangered animals:


* SHARKS:


- Around 100 million sharks are killed every year for the largely China-driven global trade in shark fin and other parts. The meat is sold for food or use in health and beauty aids.


- Shark finning -- cutting off fins and throwing the rest of the shark into the sea -- is legal in Asia, though several nations have laws that sharks must be landed with their fins attached.


- Over-fishing threatens 20 percent of the world's 547 shark and ray species with extinction, the World Conservation Union said this year.


- Half of all reported shark fin imports pass through Hong Kong, the world's trading hub, bound for huge markets in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and elsewhere.


* TIGERS:


- India is home to more than half the world's tigers. The rest are scattered from Southeast Asia to the far east of Russia.


- Between 5,000-7,000 tigers live in the wild, down from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century. Poaching for skins and to make medicinal products in India, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos is the most immediate threat, along with deforestation and the over-hunting of their natural prey.


- The tiger parts trade is illegal in China. But China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have been named top consumers of traditional medicines containing tiger parts.


- Three of the eight subspecies became extinct between the 1930s and 1980s; the Java, Caspian and Bali tigers. Of the remaining five -- the Siberian, Bengal, Sumatran, Indo-Chinese and South Chinese -- the 10-30 wild South China tigers are the most endangered, and could be extinct within five years.


* ELEPHANTS:


- There are between 25,600 and 32,750 Asian elephants living in small, fragmented groups in the wild, and more than 15,000 in captivity. This is less than a tenth the number of wild African elephants, the Worldwide Fund for Nature says.


- Elephant numbers are falling because of the destruction of their habitat and poaching to supply the illegal ivory market.


- Japan, the world's main ivory consumer, uses it for jewellery, carvings and Hankos (name stamps). The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) lifted a 10-year ban on ivory trading in 1999, allowing Japan to trade for stockpiles in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.


* BEARS:


- Asia is home to five of the world's eight types of bear, the Asiatic black, brown, sloth, sun, and panda. All eight species are listed as critically endangered by CITES.


- Habitat loss and poaching are the main threats. The largest consumers of bear products are South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China and Asian communities throughout the world. In Thailand, the sun and Asiatic black bears are hunted to make bear-paw soup.


- China's legal bear bile trade has reduced the number of all bears except the giant panda, Animals Asia says. More than 7,000 bears are currently being farmed for their bile.


Sources: WildAid, Traffic, Animals Asia, the World Conservation Union, Savechinastigers.net, Reuters


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