Cablegate: Save the Tiger Next September

Published: Mon 16 Nov 2009 02:22 AM
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R 160222Z NOV 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) This is an action request. See paragraph two. Declining
habitat, increased international awareness, and a star studded
film festival create the "perfect storm" for a State Department
program to help save the endangered Siberian tiger. Tigers were
recovering in the Russian Far East for a number of years as
Chinese enforcement of poaching laws reduced demand for tiger
parts and skins. With declining enforcement on the Russian
side, however, poachers have apparently found secure ways to
kill, export, and market tigers abroad, and wildlife groups have
been shocked to see tiger numbers crash by 40% (reftel) since
the last census. These figures reinforce the necessity of a
coordinated international effort to reduce pressure on these
endangered big cats. Russians have the know-how to protect
their tigers, but poaching and weak administration (rules and
enforcement) are taking an immense toll. A "conservation
culture" needs to be nurtured and embedded. The best way is to
bring much greater public awareness to the issue. We have in
the near future a great opportunity to achieve high visibility
public outreach through events such as the 2010 Vladivostok
International Film Festival, Tiger Day, or proposed Tiger
Summit. End summary.
Action Request
2. (U) Post proposes the Department, in coordination with the
World Wildlife Fund, World Conservation Society and World Bank
(which announced a big tiger conservation project in 2008)
approach a well known celebrity conservationist, such as
Harrison Ford, Conservation International Vice Chair, to come to
Vladivostok to take part in the 2010 "Pacific Meridian" Film
Festival, where Tiger protection will be a major theme of the
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Siberian Tiger: Winning or Losing the Struggle
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3. As the World Bank puts it "The health of the tiger population
is an indicator of biodiversity and a barometer of
sustainability." As with other global challenges, like climate
chance, disease and poverty, the tiger crisis "overwhelms local
capabilities and transcends national boundaries." Russia's
Primorye Region is home to the world's remaining Siberian
tigers. It is one of the key environmental battlegrounds where
the struggle to save the tiger species will be won, or lost.
Spotlights and Curtains
4. A big spotlighted venue to promote tiger protection is the
upcoming eighth international film festival "Pacific Meridian"
to be held in Vladivostok in September 2010. This past year's
theme was the space program, highlighting U.S.-Russian space
cooperation and the 40-year anniversary of the moon landing.
Last year's film festival attracted French megastar Catherine
Deneuve and American astronaut Alvin Drew. Previous stars
include Olympia Dukakis and Yul Brynner's son Rock Brynner. The
festival attracts media, film stars, and producers from
throughout the Pacific. Human trafficking was the theme in 2007.
In both cases, these issues were widely covered by all media
and supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture. A tiger theme
would generate enormous enthusiasm.
5. The United States has a tradition of making a strong
contribution to this festival, and this year we could use it as
a vehicle to save one of the planet's most powerful symbols of
environmental health and a species many Americans are already
working on preserving. Strong US participation fits into the
long-term objectives of the US Government in this part of
Russia. Post has actively promoted conservation in the past by
funding wildlife biologist Melody Roelke's visit to the Far East
and organizing an international visitor program for Russians
involved in conservation to visit the U.S.
6. A celebrity spokesperson, and American conservationists
accompanying him or her, could address poaching, habitat
protection, fire prevention and other subjects to help garner
critical public support for increased habitat protection. Local
conservation groups depend on public support for their tracking
programs, reintroduction of native forest trees to ensure
abundant game for tigers, mortality tigers to determine how and
why tigers die, and reproduction studies.
7. The Global Environment Facility, with the World Bank,
Smithsonian National Zoo, and the International Tiger Coalition
have also launched a new International Tiger Conservation
Initiative aimed at protecting tigers in the wild. They would
be ideal partners in this proposal, and presumably may have
funds of their own if convinced of the great value a focus on
the preservation of the Siberian tiger could have. Festival
organizers, moreover, have paid for food, travel, and lodging in
the past. So it is possible that State's role could be more a
facilitator, indentifying, promoting, and programming an
appropriate American spokesperson with good conservation
credentials and "star power."
8. There are also other projects in the region that merit
support, from individuals who run a bear rescue center in
Ussurisk, to a youth salmon conservation league in Sakhalin, to
a WWF endangered leopard station in Barabash. In short, if
Washington can find supporters, we can find projects. Post also
encourages visitors from OES to come to the Far East and see
these projects and participate in the solutions to these
environmental challenges. Thank you for your support!
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