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New report finds no slow down in tiger trafficking

pub­lished 30 Sep­tem­ber 2016 | mod­i­fied 30 Sep­tem­ber 2016

Traffic tiger report reduced to skin and bones re-examinedA new report from TRAF­FIC and WWF finds no evi­dence of a decline in tiger traf­fick­ing across Asia, with parts equat­ing to a min­i­mum of 1755 tigers seized between 2000 and 2015 – an aver­age of more than two ani­mals per week.

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.

Con­fes­sions of a tiger poacher | pub­lished 06.08.2012
With about 3,200 tigers left in the wild (2012) this iconic species teeters at the edge of extinc­tion. Poach­ing and the ille­gal wildlife trade are among the gravest threats to the tiger’s sur­vival. Con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tions such as WWF are work­ing with for­mer poach­ers and local gov­ern­ments to stop the poach­ing and save the species.

(Source: WWF Inter­na­tional YouTube channel)

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% of the tigers seized in 20122015 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.
Steven Broad, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of TRAFFIC »

Despite repeated gov­ern­ment com­mit­ments to close down tiger farms in Asia, such facil­i­ties are flour­ish­ing and play­ing an increas­ing role in fuelling ille­gal trade,” Broad added.

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.

“Crim­i­nal net­works are increas­ingly traf­fick­ing cap­tive bred tigers around Asia, under­min­ing law enforce­ment efforts and help­ing to fuel demand. Tiger range coun­tries must rapidly close their farms or wild tigers will face a future only as skin and bones,” said Ginette Hem­ley, WWF Head of CITES Del­e­ga­tion. “Laos and Thai­land have announced steps in the right direc­tion but they need to act now and other coun­tries should swiftly fol­low the same path marked ‘close all tiger farms’.”

The report also high­lighted an appar­ent rise in the seizures of live tigers, par­tic­u­larly in Thai­land and Viet­nam, with 17 ani­mals seized from 20002004 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.

“Crit­i­cal deci­sions can­not be put off until the next CITES meet­ing in three years’ time or we risk under­min­ing recent impor­tant gains in tiger con­ser­va­tion,” said Hemley.

(Source: WWF news release, 28.09.2016)

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Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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