Tigers hang onto protection by their claws

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Doha, Qatar
Despite rapidly dwindling numbers of wild tigers, no greater protection measures were afforded to the endangered animals at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP 15) in Doha, Qatar.

Conservationists however, breathed a sigh of relief that Parties reaffirmed a decision from the previous CITES meeting that countries should not breed tigers for the trade of their parts and derivatives.

“We narrowly avoided making the Year of the Tiger into the Year of the dead tiger,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “Illegal trade of tiger parts and products from farming operations are already stimulating demand for dead tigers which fuels poaching of wild tigers.”

Recent investigations in China have found an increase in the illegal sale of products from tiger farming operations claiming to contain tiger parts, both online and in stores. While there are fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China, tiger farms collectively have over 6000 tigers and boast an annual reproduction rate of 1000. Operated also as safari parks for tourists, these tiger farms openly sell products such as ‘tiger bone wine’ as health tonics.

“While we had hoped that a previous resolution on Conservation of and Trade in Tigers and other Asian Appendix I Asian Big Cat Species could have been strengthened at this CoP by prohibiting the breeding of tigers for commercial trade, we are glad that the hard-fought decision from CoP14 was retained,” said Gabriel. “We are thankful that there is still a thin line of defence between farming tigers for commercial trade and the world’s remaining wild tigers, with less than 3,200 left.”

Decision 14.69 from CoP14 states that, “Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives”.

All tigers and other Asian big cat species are included in CITES Appendix I, which bans their international trade for commercial purposes. Domestic trade bans are a key recommendation in CITES resolution on tiger trade control because legal domestic trade has been shown to undermine the international ban, stimulate poaching and threaten tigers in the wild.

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