Hollywood celebrities Harrison Ford, Bo Derek and Robert Duvall Monday threw their support behind a new global initiative by the World Bank to save tigers from extinction.
While the global development agency's main mission is to fight poverty in developing countries, it has rarely taken on wildlife conservation efforts of endangered species.
The new Tiger Conservation Initiative will bring together wildlife experts, scientists and governments to try to halt the killing and thriving illegal trade in tiger skins, meat and body parts used in traditional Asian medicines.
Ford, a long-time environmental activist, said efforts to protect tigers would only succeed if local communities were involved in conservation efforts.
"By committing to help wild tigers, the World Bank is sounding its intention to be a global leader in biodiversity conservation," Ford, the star of the latest "Indiana Jones" movie, told an event at Washington's Smithsonian National Zoo.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick said the decline in the number of tigers was "shocking" — from more than 100,000 a century ago to currently less than 4,000.
The clearing of large areas of forest land for urban development has added to their decline and disappearance from Central Asia, the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, and most of China.
A World Bank report warned that "if current trends persist, tigers are likely to be the first species of large predator to vanish in historic times."
"Just as as with many other challenges of sustainability, such as climate change, pandemic disease, or poverty, the crisis facing tigers overwhelms local capabilities and it is one that transcends local borders," Zoellick said.