China may reopen trade in tiger parts
WWF press release
September 27, 2005
China is considering reopening the domestic trade in tigers and tiger parts, banned there since 1993, a move that would spell disaster for the already endangered species, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and TRAFFIC.
China’s plans appear to be limited to the trade of captive-bred tigers for traditional medicine from so-called “tiger farms.” But WWF and TRAFFIC believe any legal trade would also threaten the world’s remaining wild tiger populations by making it easier to “launder” black market tiger parts. Tiger bone has been used as a treatment for rheumatism and related ailments for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicine.
“There are as few as 5,000 tigers in the wild and allowing any legal sales in China would give cover to black marketers who poach wild tigers,” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, senior program officer for species conservation. “We’re afraid that poachers living near the world’s last populations of tigers may kill more to supply both China’s proposed domestic markets as well as illegal markets.”
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The opening of the trade would also send the wrong signal to consumers, who may think it is acceptable to buy tiger parts again, Klenzendorf said.
The domestic trade ban in China in 1993 gave a welcome boost to tiger conservation by curbing demand for tiger products from nearby countries with wild tiger populations, such as India, Nepal, Bhutan and Indonesia. Despite the ban, the world’s tiger population remains at a record low.
“If this planned experiment in a limited tiger bone trade goes ahead, it will undo all the excellent work the Chinese government has done over the last 12 years,” says Crawford Allan, deputy director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN-The World Conservation Organization. “China has led by example in the past by imposing harsh penalities on wildlife trade criminals and through determined enforcement measures. To go back on all this, especially when there are alternatives for use in traditional medicine, just doesn’t make sense.”
Pressure is also increasing on Asian big cats because of a rapidly growing market for pelts from snow leopard, Asian leopard as well as tigers in Tibetan regions, with animals illegally hunted every year throughout their range to meet this new market demand. In August, in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, TRAFFIC investigators found 23 shops in the city’s main square openly selling skins and parts of tigers and leopards.
WWF and TRAFFIC are also calling for authorities to curb the demand for Asian big cat skins and parts, and strengthen enforcement efforts along trade the trade chains, from the source countries to the markets in Asia.
This is a modified press release from WWF.