THE statistics make dreadful reading. The wild Indian tiger is virtually extinct due to poaching; only 60 years ago, there were probably 40,000 tigers in the wild. Now there are perhaps a mere 1,500.

It's a situation the Indian Government has brought on itself.

For poaching, though illegal under United Nations law, has been permitted to grow in acceptability. Now many shops have no compunction about selling or advertising tiger skins. Moreover, tiger products (including ground bones, whiskers and penises) are often sold at fairs with the knowledge of police officials, and the Himalayan plateau has become a massive bazaar for pelts (which can fetch £10,000 each).

If present trends continue, the Indian subcontinent will have no tigers by the middle of the century. A tragedy of breathtaking proportions.

I hope you all feel as passionately as I do that it must not happen.

It's madness to wipe out a beautiful animal like the Indian tiger, simply because we lack the courage to get tough with the poachers.

But what can the average person do to help?

Well, leading conservation groups (such as the World Wildlife Fund) are desperately lobbying the UN to impose trade sanctions against India if it fails to combat the illegal trade.

Your support is vital to help experts pressurise our leaders. Without it, they are impotent.

Any donation, however small, strengthens their hand in the fight to protect India's surviving tiger populations.

Aled Jones, Mount Crescent, Bridlington, East Yorkshire.