China & others urged to take action to help wild Asian big cats
LONDON: Countries with operations farming tigers and other Asian big cats must shut down such facilities and destroy stockpiled body parts and derivatives.
And China – which has the world’s greatest number of tiger farms – must terminate its ‘legal’ domestic trade in tiger and leopard skins as an indication of genuine commitment to ending the tiger trade and reducing demand.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is submitting both calls to the62nd meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in Geneva, Switzerland from July 23-27.
Under CITES regulations, operations to breed tigers and other Asian big cats are restricted to the purposes of conservation; CITES specifically states ‘tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives’.
However, some tiger farms in China are understood to be stockpiling skins and bones, fuelling speculation that some of these ‘products’ may be leaking onto the market and that they are being held in anticipation of a ‘legalised’ trade.
As well as in China, there are tiger farms in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos; traders and operations in these countries have been caught engaged in international illegal trade within SouthEast Asia.
In addition, EIA is asking CITES to urge China to comply with the letter and spirit of earlier resolutions by withdrawing its controversial scheme allowing trade in the licenced skins of captive-bred tigers and leopards.
“China has very publically committed to international efforts to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022, with Premier Wen Jiabao promising the 2010 International Tiger Forum in Russia that his country would ‘vigorously combat poaching, trade and smuggling of tiger products’,” said EIA Head of Tiger Campaign Debbie Banks.
“But these words can only ever be toothless platitudes so long as China officially sanctions the trade in skins of captive-bred animals. It’s a policy that completely undermines commitments to demand reduction.”
EIA is also calling CITES to remind parties of their obligations to formally report on all Asian big cats, not just tigers, and to set a new deadline for all range and consumer Parties of Asian big cats to provide the information required for INTERPOL to conduct a full analysis of trade.