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New study reveals scale of per­sis­tent ille­gal tiger trade

pub­lished 08 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 08 March 2014

Tiger chopsParts of more than 1400 Tigers have been seized across Asia in the past 13 years, accord­ing to TRAFFIC’s lat­est analy­sis of con­fis­ca­tions, which includes new data for 20102012.

The report ‘Reduced to Skin and Bones Revis­ited’ finds that parts of at least 1425 Tigers had been seized across all but one of the 13 Tiger range coun­tries between 2000 and 2012. For Cam­bo­dia alone, no seizures were recorded at all dur­ing the period. Although it is not yet pos­si­ble to show a def­i­nite trend, the analy­sis pro­vides clear evi­dence that ille­gal trade in Tigers, their parts and prod­ucts, per­sists as a major con­ser­va­tion con­cern, says TRAF­FIC.

A total of 654 seizures of Tiger parts rang­ing from skin to bones, to teeth, claws and skulls took place dur­ing this period, an aver­age of 110 Tigers killed for trade per year or just over two per week. 89% of seizures occur out­side pro­tected areas, empha­sis­ing the impor­tance of anti-​trafficking actions to dis­rupt trade chains and pre­vent incur­sions into Tiger habi­tat. The ben­e­fits of such analy­sis to enhance law enforce­ment efforts to pro­tect Tigers are obvious.

If more robust infor­ma­tion was rou­tinely col­lected, analysed and shared between coun­tries, real inroads could be made into tar­get­ing the smug­gling syn­di­cates behind Tiger trafficking.
Natalia Per­vushina, Tiger Trade Pro­gramme Leader for TRAF­FIC and WWF »

The report, a joint effort by TRAF­FIC and the WWF Tigers Alive Ini­tia­tive, was launched March 7 at the Con­ven­tion on Inter­na­tional Trade in Endan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meet­ing cur­rently under­way in Bangkok, Thai­land. Later this week gov­ern­ments will debate efforts under­way to pro­tect Tigers and other Asian big cats.

A sig­nif­i­cant find­ing in the updated analy­sis was increased record­ing of seizures involv­ing live Tigers — 61 indi­vid­u­als were seized in the three-​year period since the last full CITES meet­ing took place in 2010, rep­re­sent­ing 50% of over­all num­bers (123) recorded since 2000. Thai­land was the most sig­nif­i­cant loca­tion for inter­dic­tion of live Tiger trade (30 Tigers), fol­lowed by Lao PDR (11) and Indone­sia (9) and Viet Nam (4).

“Given the low pop­u­la­tion esti­mates for wild tigers in Thai­land, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, com­bined with the pres­ence of cap­tive Tiger facil­i­ties within these three coun­tries, there are seri­ous ques­tions as to the source of these live Tigers in trade,” said Nick Cox, Species Pro­gramme Man­ager for WWF-​Greater Mekong.

Of the 13 Tiger range coun­tries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cam­bo­dia, China, India, Indone­sia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myan­mar, Nepal, Rus­sia, Thai­land, Viet Nam), only India had kept suf­fi­ciently detailed seizure records to allow mean­ing­ful analy­sis to iden­tify the ‘hotspots’ where Tiger trade was tak­ing place. Based on the infor­ma­tion from India, five ‘hotspot’ loca­tions were iden­ti­fied, includ­ing Delhi, while the other four were close to pro­tected areas in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try (Uttar Pradesh, cen­tral India, West Ben­gal (Sun­dar­bans) and the south­ern India land­scape of the West­ern Ghats).

“The qual­ity of the infor­ma­tion from India allowed us to per­form a spa­tial analy­sis and pin­point the key loca­tions where Tiger trade is tak­ing place,” said Sarah Stoner, TRAFFIC’s Tiger Trade Data Spe­cial­ist and author of the report. “Coun­tries should be made to keep to their com­mit­ments under CITES to pro­tect wild Tigers by pro­vid­ing robust report­ing on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.”

Under agree­ments made at ear­lier CITES meet­ings, Tiger range coun­tries have to state what action they have taken to pro­tect Asian big cats. As of the start of the CITES meet­ing cur­rently under­way in Bangkok, only China, India and Thai­land (*) had sub­mit­ted appro­pri­ate reports in com­pli­ance with a CITES require­ment to do so (**).

WWF and TRAF­FIC are urg­ing coun­tries engaged in the Global Tiger Recov­ery Pro­gram to develop a har­monised process for report­ing to the GTRP that will also ful­fil the require­ments of CITES with respect to Tigers.

(*) Rus­sia also sub­mit­ted a report, but not in the appro­pri­ate for­mat.
(**) CITES Res­o­lu­tion 12.5 (Rev. CoP15) on the Con­ser­va­tion of and trade in Tigers and other Appendix-​I Asian big cat species.

(Source: WWF News, 07.03.2013)

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Tiger range countries map

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

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