Illegal trade in tigers undermines China’s implementation of CITES

Thursday, 31 May, 2007
The Hague, Netherlands
A new investigation report by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - ) confirms the details of an illegal trade in tiger bone and parts on tiger farms in China, in contravention of both the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and China’s domestic law. The release of the report, Made in China: Farming Tigers to Extinction, comes just in time for the 14th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP), where tiger conservation and control of trade is to be among the main issues debated.
Grace Gabriel, IFAW’s Asia Regional Director and key player in the tiger farming debate, said of the report’s findings, “Tigers play a vital role in our ecosystem and are key to Asia’s wildlife heritage. Their endangerment is a call for us to focus on long-term, viable conservation strategies rather than ways to make a quick dollar.”
The report highlights the imminent threats to tigers in the wild as a direct result of the large scale commercial breeding of tigers on so-called tiger farms.  Investigators found evidence in support of observations detailed in the CITES Secretariat’s China tiger mission report that wine produced on the tiger farms in tiger shaped bottles are indeed promoted and sold as tiger bone-based wine on site, on company brochures and on Web sites.
The IFAW report also concurs with the Secretariat’s assessment that tiger farming as an “industry” is the result of a bad business decision. According to one tiger farm owner cited in the mission report, the decision to breed tigers for trade after the 1993 trade ban was “a speculative business exercise in the hope that the ban would be temporary.”
That commercial gain is the goal of these farms is clear.  Because the breeding strategy on these farms is to maximize “production,” these farm bred tigers are genetically compromised and cannot be released in the wild.  At the same time, tiger farm owners are engaging in the stockpiling of tiger carcasses and the production and trade of tiger parts, all the while pressuring the Chinese government to re-open the tiger trade in order to alleviate the financial burden of growing populations of farmed tigers.
The tolerance of any illegal trade in tiger parts in China calls into question China’s commitment to the implementation of the convention and compromises China’s compliance with the recommendations of the CITES CoP.  
“Farming tigers for trade will rekindle demand that has been successfully contained by China’s domestic ban and public awareness efforts by the Chinese government,” says Gabriel,.  “Increased demand will only stimulate the poaching of tigers in the wild which costs significantly less than raising a farmed tiger. Bullets are cheap.”
Raising thousands of tigers has strained these farming facilities financially, but rather than acknowledging the failure of the tiger farm as a bad business decision, investors are attempting to shift the financial burden to the international public at large, and expecting the world to accept the loss of wild tigers as a consequence. 

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