Plan: Adopt Sumatran tigers to save them

Jan. 21, 2010 at 9:46 AM
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JAKARTA, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Indonesia may let people adopt critically endangered Sumatran tigers born in captivity for $100,000 a pair to help save them from extinction, officials said.

The plan, which could go into effect this year, would require prospective adopters to have at least 53,000 square feet of land -- close to the size of an American football field -- but preferably more, Forestry Ministry Conservation Director General Darori said at a Sumatran tiger conservation workshop in Jakarta.

The tigers would remain Indonesian government property, he said. The animals' health would be government-monitored and mistreatment would be punished by fines or jail terms.

About 500 Sumatran tigers still exist in the wild, living in 18 areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with most in northern Sumatra's Gunung Leuser National Park, the Forestry Ministry said.

Some ecologists say the wild population is closer to 200, the BBC reported.

Conservationists, including Greenpeace Southeast Asia, criticized the government's adoption plan, saying a better plan would save the animals' natural habitat from destruction.

Many forests where the tigers lived have been wiped out by illegal logging and deforestation, the BBC said. The tigers' numbers are further depleted by poaching for souvenirs, Chinese medicine and jewelry.

World Wildlife Fund Indonesia plans a "save the tiger" campaign beginning Feb. 14, the start of the Chinese year of the tiger.

Sumatran tigers are the smallest of all surviving tiger subspecies, with males averaging 6 feet 8 inches from head to tail and weighing 300 pounds. Females are slightly smaller and 100 pounds lighter.

Their stripes are narrower than those of other tigers, and they have a more bearded and maned appearance. They also have webbing between their toes that make them very fast swimmers.

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