Summit predicts tiger extinction in 12 years
ST. PETERSBURG | Wild tigers could become extinct in 12 years if countries where they still roam fail to take quick action to protect their habitats and step up the fight against poaching, global wildlife experts told a "tiger summit" Sunday.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other experts say only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, a dramatic plunge from an estimated 100,000 a century ago.
WWF Director General James Leape told the meeting in St. Petersburg that if the proper protective measures aren't taken, tigers may disappear by 2022, the next Chinese calendar year of the tiger.
Their habitat is being destroyed by forest cutting and construction, and tigers are a valuable trophy for poachers who want their skins and body parts prized in Chinese traditional medicine.
The summit approved a wide-ranging program with the goal of doubling the world's tiger population in the wild by 2022 backed by governments of the 13 countries that still have tiger populations: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia.
The Global Tiger Recovery Program estimates the countries will need about $350 million in outside funding in the first five years of the 12-year plan. The summit will be seeking donor commitments to help governments finance conservation measures.
Vatican: No changes on condom use
The Vatican on Sunday cautioned that there is nothing "revolutionary" in Pope Benedict XVI's startling assertion that condom use in exceptional circumstances can be a responsible act in the fight against the spread of HIV.
The Holy See's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, issued a statement stressing that the pope's comment in a book being published Tuesday neither "reforms or changes" church teaching, which forbids use of condoms and other contraceptives.
Neither was Benedict "morally justifying" the unbridled exercise of sexuality, Father Lombardi added.
The pope maintains that condom use to lessen the danger of infection is a "first assumption of responsibility," the statement said, quoting from the book.
"The reasoning of the pope cannot certainly be defined as a revolutionary turn," the spokesman said.
The pope spoke in an interview given to a German journalist. Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on Saturday published excerpts from the book, "Light of the World," three days ahead of publication.
In the interview, Benedict says that in certain cases, such as for a male prostitute, condom use could be a first step in assuming moral responsibility for stemming the spread of the virus that causes AIDS.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports