28 September 2016
New report finds no slow down in tiger trafficking
Published ahead of a critical debate on the illegal tiger trade at the world's largest wildlife trade meeting underway in South Africa, Reduced to Skin and Bones Re-examined found there had been 801 recorded seizures of tigers and tiger products across Asia since 2000.
With only an estimated 3,900 tigers left in the wild, evidence indicates that an increasing number of seized animals undoubtedly originate from captive breeding operations: at least 30 per cent of the tigers seized in the period 2012-2015 were known to be of captive-sourced tigers.
While the largest number of overall seizures was reported by India, there is evidence that traffickers are still exploiting a previously identified trade route stretching from Thailand to Vietnam through Laos - three countries where the number of tiger farms has risen.
This analysis provides clear evidence that illegal trade in tigers, their parts and products, persists as an important conservation concern. Despite repeated government commitments to close down tiger farms in Asia, such facilities are flourishing and playing an increasing role in fuelling illegal trade," said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC.
This week representatives from more than 180 countries meet at the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and flora (CITES) and conservationists will be urging those countries with tiger farms - including China, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos - to commit to providing a clear timeframe for the phasing out and final closure of these facilities.
Last week, Laos announced it would discuss ways to phase out its tiger farms after the country was highlighted at CITES for its lack of regulation and control over wildlife trade. Thailand has also cracked down on the infamous Tiger Temple and pledged to investigate all tiger breeding facilities.
Heather Sohl, WWF-UK's chief advisor on wildlife, comments:
"This report echoes our calls to end tiger farming across Asia, which is increasingly fuelling the illegal tiger trade. Following the high profile raid at its Tiger Temple earlier this year, Thailand is making welcome progress by investigating other facilities. Laos has said they will discuss ways to phase out tiger farms as well. However, the spotlight is still on Asia to agree stronger actions and quickly, else wild tigers could face a future as only skin and bones."
The report also highlighted an apparent rise in the seizures of live tigers, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam, with 17 animals seized from 2000-2004 and 186 animals in the last four years. It is widely believed the increase in live seizures is directly related to the rise in tiger farms.
Recent seizures have highlighted hotspots for trafficking in Vietnam, which has come under scrutiny at the CITES conference for its lack of progress in tackling the illegal trade in rhino horn, ivory and tigers.
In a move to combat the poaching of tigers collaboratively, India is asking other governments at CoP17 to share photographic evidence of seized tiger skins for comparison with camera trap images of wild tigers held in a database. Each tiger's stripe pattern is unique, much like a person's fingerprints, so this would help enforcement agencies and tiger biologists to identify poached tigers and trace their origins.
There has been an international ban on the trade in tigers and their products for decades yet poaching for the illegal trade remains the greatest direct threat to their survival.
"We can't wait any longer to make these critical decisions. Earlier this year we celebrated an increase in global tiger numbers for the first time in conservation history but wild tiger populations are still under great threat. Waiting until the next CITES meeting in three years could be a grave mistake."
Download the briefing document at www.traffic.org/Reduced-to-Skin-and-Bones.pdf
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