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Leonardo DiCaprio gives Russia's tiger summit a helping hand

A five-day tiger summit aimed at conservation generated a $1 million donation from Leonardo DiCaprio. The world's remaining 3,500 tigers are at risk from poaching and loss of habitat.

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Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (l.) listens to actor Leonardo DiCaprio during their meeting, dedicated to a five-day 'tiger summit,' in St. Petersburg, Nov. 23.

Alexei Druzhinin/Ria Novosti/AP

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A five-day "tiger summit" held in St. Petersburg, Russia, has garnered fresh pledges of support to help an iconic species that faces extinction in the wild. The summit, hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, also had a Hollywood touch: Leonardo DiCaprio arrived Tuesday, a day late, after a diverted flight, and donated $1 million to the cause, earning him praise for persistence from Mr. Putin.

The meeting, which ended Wednesday, is aimed at supporting national efforts to conserve tiger populations, estimated to be less than 3,500. The surviving tigers are at risk of poaching, loss of habitat, and genetic disorders from interbreeding. Russia is among 13 nations classified as range countries for tigers, which include the Siberian subspecies in Russia’s Far East and the more common Bengal tiger.

But wildlife groups in Southeast Asia warn that conservation efforts will fall flat unless governments tackle the rampant illegal market in tiger skins and body parts that are driving the poaching. Of particular concern are lawless border towns in Burma (Myanmar) that attract buyers from neighboring China and Thailand. Researchers say that endangered species such as tigers and clouded leopards are sold openly in shops and markets.

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