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Do You  Understand China’s Position on Reopening Tiger Trade?

7 June 2007
International Tiger Coalition



Some CITES delegates may be confused about China’s stand on tiger trade.  There is a reason for  confusion.
China banned domestic trade in tiger bone in 1993 to support the CITES ban on international commercial  trade in Appendix I tigers and their parts and derivatives.  This ban stopped the legal use of tiger bone in China.  The government removed tiger bone from the official pharmacopeia, supported research of  alternatives, and launched widespread consumer awareness efforts.  Today, the traditional Chinese medicine community embraces effective alternatives and participates in tiger conservation inititatives.  
Despite the ban and a massive decline in the consumer market, China’s tiger farms have continued breeding tigers at unnatural rates in hope of capitalizing on any future reopening of trade.  
March 2007:
China states in CoP14 Doc. 52, Annex 1 that it “intends” to resume “use of captive bred tigers” in the future. Furthermore, the document states that China’s captive tiger population of 5,000 is growing at a rate of at least 800 animals per year and “constitutes a steady foundation for a future potential reopen(ing) of utilization of tiger bones and fur.”
April 2007:
After noting that China’s trade ban had benefited wild tigers, range country members of the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) ask through diplomatic channels for clarification of China’s intentions regarding trade in tiger parts and derivatives. 
May 2007: 
The businessman who owns China’s largest tiger farms makes clear to the CITES Secretariat during its official mission to China “that he actively seeks a reopening of commercial trade in tiger parts and derivatives” (CoP14 Doc. 52 Annex 7).  This is underscored in CoP14 Doc. 52, Annex 8, which was submitted to the Secretariat by this businessman.
A few days before the start of CoP14, the China Daily, China’s official English language newspaper, quotes  China’s State Forestry Administration spokesman Liu Xiongying as saying that the government remains committed to its tiger trade ban in spite of intense pressure from tiger farm investors to lift the ban. 
June 2007:
The China’s CITES delegation distributes a document to all Parties entitled “Key Positions & General  Introduction on Tiger Conservation in China.”  This document explains that the government of China is conducting “research” on the possibility of reopening trade in products from farmed tigers and announces a workshop in July to explore the matter further.
Meanwhile, in Beijing, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reports on a State Forestry Administration(SFA) press conference during which SFA spokesperson Cao Qingyao reiterates the message in “Key Positions & General Introduction on Tiger Conservation in China,” saying any change of China’s policy regarding the tiger trade ban will be based on “benefiting” tigers in the wild.
It is no wonder there is confusion!  
If China intends to keep its tiger trade ban in place as reported by the China Daily, why has China distributed a document at CoP14 promoting tiger farming and organized a post-CoP workshop to discuss farming tigers for commercial purposes?  
If the China Daily story is a true reflection of government policy, what is China’s plan to ensure that the number of farmed tigers stops growing and prevent further financial losses for tiger farm investors?
“It is clear that the Government of China is coming under considerable pressure from various sources to authorize resumption in the use of tiger parts and derivatives from captive-breeding operations,” according to the Secretariat (Doc. 52, Annex 7).   However, the Secretariat points out that “any change in China’s present policy, for example with regard to medicinal products, would bring it into a state of non-compliance with the recommendation of the Conference of the Parties.”
What Parties can do
Facing opposition from the Parties, China withdrew proposals to reopen tiger trade at previous CITES CoPs.  At that time, there were hundreds of tigers on farms.  Today there are 5,000 “with a capacity to reproduce 800-1,000 cubs annually” (“Key Positions & General Introduction on Tiger Conservation in China”).  If China does not act now, by CoP15, there may be more than 7,000 tigers on farms and even more pressure to reopen trade.  In the interest of successful implementation of the Appendix I listing of tigers and Resolution Conf. 12.5, all Parties, and especially tiger range countries, have a stake in seeking a clarification from China regarding its intentions for reopening trade in tiger parts and derivatives in the future. 
Maintaining the tiger trade ban through concrete steps such as rejecting petitions from tiger farm investors to reopen trade, phasing out tiger farms and destroying stockpiles of tiger parts and products would demonstrate China’s true commitment to compliance with Resolution Conf. 12.5 and the implementation of CITES.
Save The Tiger Fund, on behalf of the International Tiger Coalition 

American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Animal Welfare Institute
Animals Asia Foundation
Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Born Free Foundation
Born Free USA
British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums 
Care for the Wild International
Conservation International 
Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Environmental Investigation Agency 
Global Tiger Patrol
Humane Society International
Humane Society of the United States 
International Fund for Animal Welfare 
Ranthambhore Foundation
Save The Tiger Fund
Species Survival Network 
The Corbett Foundation 
Tigris Foundation
21st Century Tiger
Wildlife Alliance
Wildlife Conservation Nepal
Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Protection Society of India
Wildlife Trust of India 
World Association of Zoos & Aquariums
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Zoological Society of London





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