South Korea to open Asia’s largest tiger forest
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South Korea to open Asia’s largest tiger forest

CENTURIES of hunting have caused the world’s population of tigers to fall on the brink of extinction. Poaching is the main cause of a decline in tiger numbers.

They are poached for their fur, which is sold on the black market, and their bones are used in medicine and wine, purchased by businesspeople to show wealth and win promotions. Cubs are also stolen from their mothers and used in tourist attractions across Asia.

Around 97 percent of tigers have been lost in the last century. However, last year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced global numbers in the wild had risen from 3,200 in 2010 to around 3,900 in 2016.

But for Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, the numbers aren’t growing as quickly. Currently, there are just 500 Siberian tigers in the wild, but South Korea is trying to improve this figure.

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It has announced the opening of “tiger forest” in a section of the 90,500-square-foot National Baekdudaegan Arboretum. According to the Korea Heraldthe “tiger forest” will be the biggest of its kind in Asia and will open to visitors on May 3.

The forest lies at the foot of the impressive Bonghwa mountain range, southeast of the North Gyeongsang province. Visitors will be able to catch glimpses of two Siberian tigers at the forest: Hancheong, a 13-year-old female, and Uri, a seven-year-old male.

The forest authorities also plan on releasing 17-year-old Duman, a donated male tiger from China, back into the wild after his reintroduction training. The tiger forest is the equivalent of seven full-sized football pitches and created to resemble the Siberian tiger’s natural habitat.

South Korea’s dedication to protecting these majestic creatures will help towards WWF’s aim of having 6,000 tigers in the wild by 2022 – the next year of the tiger on the Chinese calendar.

This article originally appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.