Minister Directs Action Against Tiger Traders
Wildlife conservationists welcomed news that the Indian government is
to take new action to fight tiger poaching and the smuggling of skins.
The massive illegal trade in skins used across the Tibetan plateau
poses a direct threat to India’s remaining wild tigers.
In a late evening press release on 6 October 2005, the Government of
India stated that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, had
“directed action to check the trade of Wildlife articles like
tiger and leopard skins along the northern border”.
As part of these directions, the proposal for the National Wildlife
Crime Bureau will be placed before the Cabinet by the third week of
October. Additionally, the three paramilitary forces entrusted with
border security the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the
Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Border Security Force (BSF)
with Customs officers stationed on the Indo-China and Indo-Nepal
borders, will be trained to detect cross border smuggling of wildlife
Dr. Singh has also directed that the issue be taken up with the
authorities in China and Nepal through diplomatic channels. The
Minister of State for Environment will personally ask Chinese
authorities to take urgent action during his upcoming visit to China.
The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) and the Environmental
Investigation Agency (EIA), welcomed the Prime Minister’s
response following their release of shocking footage and photos from
China illustrating the staggering scale of the market for tiger,
leopard and otter skins illegally sourced from India. Investigators
from WPSI in Delhi and EIA in London travelled extensively throughout
the Tibetan plateau in August 2005 and documented the open display and
sale of hundreds of skins in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan and
Gansu Province. Traders categorically stated that the tiger skins were
The findings illustrate an absence of effective enforcement, regional
cooperation and a lack of consumer awareness. In the midst of this, the
Chinese government is reportedly considering re-opening domestic trade
in tiger bone, which would be disastrous for wild tigers.
Belinda Wright, WPSI’s Executive Director said: “We
delighted the Prime Minister is taking a lead role on the international
stage and look forward to seeing effective enforcement cooperation
between India, Nepal and China to stop trade. It’s critical
however that India reminds China how a revived trade in tiger bone
would spell doom for our tigers.”
While the directions from the Prime Minister are commendable, it is
essential that domestic enforcement is also improved, with emergency
action on the ground to protect tigers. Organised criminal networks run
the tiger skin and bone trade and India needs to use professional crime
fighters to stop them.
Debbie Banks, EIA Senior Campaigner, stated: “We know India
the verge of setting up a multi-agency wildlife crime bureau to target
the big time traders and dealers. It is vital that police, customs and
intelligence agencies play a lead role in directing enforcement
operations. In China we need to see a massive awareness drive among
consumers and targeted enforcement against smugglers and
The Indian tiger is running out of time. India and China will need to
take strong and sustained action against poachers, traders and
consumers if they are to keep wild tigers alive in India.