Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao pledged that China would work with other nations to end the trade in tiger parts and revive tiger populations at the Global Tiger Forum last fall, but the country has since fallen short of its commitments, says an environmental group.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has written to Premier Jiabao to express concern over China’s State Forestry Administration’s handling of tiger protection. During last year’s Global Tiger Forum Premier Jiabao vowed to “vigorously combat poaching, trade, and smuggling of tiger products.” Yet during a series of meetings on wildlife trade in March, a representative of China’s law enforcement was unaware of any arrests or prosecutions related to the illegal tiger trade, or even seizures of tiger product since the forum. EIA also revealed that China relies largely on NGO-generated intelligence to monitor illegal trade in tiger products. China appears to lack the commitment and the capacity to address its pledge to boost the tiger population within its borders and end the trade in tiger-derived products.
Malayan tiger. Photo by Rhett Butler
This lack of capacity is further compounded by Chinese policy that undermines the country’s commitments to tiger protection, says EIA. China’s recent adoption of a 2007 agenda to allow for the sale of tiger skins of “legal origin” violates China’s commitments under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which states that tigers should not be farmed for trade in their parts. China had earlier affirmed that it would not re-open domestic trade in tiger products, and in so doing is counteracting the efforts of the other Tiger Range Countries to combat illegal wildlife trade. EIA has expressed concern that any market for tiger products will increase demand for wild tigers and further threaten this endangered species.
EIA recommends that China mandate a policy of zero tolerance for trade in illegally-sourced tiger parts and, further, forbid all trade in tiger products. EIA also encouraged Premier Jiabao to delegate responsibility for crimes in wildlife trade, including tigers, to a full-time unit of police investigators and to work to strengthen the capability of the State Forestry Administration to respond to wildlife crimes throughout China.
Karimeh Moukaddem is mongabay.com’s writing intern for summer 2011.