NEW YORK, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- The Wildlife Conservation Society says the last population of Siberian tigers has likely declined significantly due to increased poaching and habitat loss.
Officials said a new report from the Siberian Tiger Monitoring Program, coordinated by the society in collaboration with Russian governmental and non-governmental organizations, is designed to help protect remaining populations of the world's biggest cat.
The report reveals a recent tiger survey over a representative part of the tiger's range showed a 40 percent decline in numbers from a 12-year average.
Annual tiger surveys are conducted at 16 monitoring sites scattered across the tiger range to act as an early warning system to detect changes in the tiger population. The society said the monitoring area, which covers 9,000 square miles, represents as much as 18 percent of the existing tiger habitat in Russia.
Only 56 tigers were counted at the monitoring sites during the recent survey. The total number of Siberian tigers across their entire range was estimated at approximately 500 individuals in 2005, having recovered from less than 30 animals during the late 1940s.
"The sobering results are a wake-up call that current conservation efforts are not going far enough to protect Siberian tigers," said Dale Miquelle of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Russian Far East Program. "The good news is that we believe this trend can be reversed if immediate action is taken."