February 14 marks the arrival of the Chinese New Year—the Year of the Tiger. While communities around the world celebrate this auspicious year on the lunar calendar, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) warns about an upsurge in illegal trade in tiger parts and products, that is driving this endangered species, already on the brink, towards extinction.
“Wild tigers once numbered around 100,000 across Asia, today there are fewer than 3,500,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW’s Asia Regional Director. “Tigers face threats from loss of habitat and prey. But the greatest threat to wild tigers is poaching to supply an illegal trade driven by the demand for tiger parts and products.”
With a listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) all international commercial trade in tigers and their parts is banned. As a range and a consumer state, China also has a domestic ban on the use of tiger bone.
“These bans are ‘toothless tigers’ in the face of a growing illegal market for tiger parts fueled by a few large scale tiger farms that speed-breed tigers for commercial trade of their parts,” said Gabriel.
Recent investigations in China have found an increase in the illegal sale of products claiming to contain tiger parts from these farms, both online and in stores. While there are fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China, tiger farms collectively have over 6,000 tigers and boast an annual reproduction rate of 800. Operated also as safari parks for tourists, these tiger farms openly sell products such as ‘tiger bone wine’ as health tonics.
“Any reduction of demand for tiger parts in China thanks to the government’s trade ban is undermined by this illegal trade,” warned Gabriel. “These tiger farming businessmen are cultivating a new demand for dead tigers, fueling the illegal trade in wildlife and stimulating the poaching of wild tigers.”
A total of 175 countries will have the opportunity to vote for improved protection of wild tigers at the upcoming CITES meeting in March, by supporting an EU proposal urging for strengthened control of the tiger trade and stopping the farming of tigers for the trade of their parts and products. Visit www.ifaw.org for further information.
To make the Year of the Tiger an auspicious year for the tiger, IFAW urges all governments and especially consumer countries to reduce demand and prevent any trade in dead tigers from any source, and focus on protecting live tigers in the wild.