scale of market for tiger and leopard skins revealed
Dramatic new findings released today from
investigations in China and
the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) reveal the previously unknown scale
of the trade in tiger and leopard skins. Skins are being openly traded
in China and TAR on a scale that triggers real fear over the future of
the wild tiger.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), who first pioneered
undercover investigation into crimes against wildlife and the
environment 21 years ago, and the Wildlife Protection Society of India
(WPSI) have just returned from investigations conducted in August this
EIA and WPSI have obtained footage revealing the staggering size of the
market for tiger and leopard skins - much of which is being used for
costumes and ceremonial events. Investigators attended horse festivals
across the Tibetan plateau where many people, including the organisers
and officials, were wearing costumes decorated with tiger and leopard
skins, known locally as chubas. The costumes had been bought within the
last two years and the traders categorically stated that the tiger
skins had come from India.
Since EIA's visit last year, there has been a massive increase in the
availability of tiger and leopard skins in Lhasa, TAR. In the 46 shops
surveyed, 54 leopard skin chubas and 24 tiger skin chubas were openly
displayed, 7 whole fresh leopard skins were presented for sale and,
within the space of 24 hours, investigators were offered three whole,
fresh tiger skins.
In one street alone in Linxia, China, more than 60 whole snow leopard
and over 160 fresh leopard skins were openly on display - with many
more skins rolled up in the back. The investigators also found over
1,800 otter skins, which are also used to decorate costumes.
The quantity and blatant display of tiger and leopard skins in TAR and
China demonstrates a lack of awareness among consumers about the plight
of the tiger, and the urgent need for targeted enforcement to stop
traders from smuggling and illegally selling the skins of tigers and
Belinda Wright, WPSI's Executive Director said:
"This is the first time that the sheer scale and seriousness of the
problem has beenexposed. The volume of skins openly for sale is
shocking. It is a thriving, uncontrolled market, which may
explain the increased poaching of tigers in India that has left at
least one tiger reserve devoid of tigers and four others almost empty."
Huge seizures of tiger, leopard and otter skins in India and Nepal
indicate the existence of highly organised criminal networks behind the
skin trade. They operate across borders, smuggling skins from India
through Nepal into China, and continue to evade the law.
Debbie Banks, EIA's Senior Campaigner, stated:
"In the last five years, the international community has seen the trade
in tiger and leopard skins spiral out of control. If this trade
continues unabated for another five years, it will be the end for the
wild tiger. It is imperative that the Indian and Chinese governments
stop this trade now, before time runs out."
EIA and WPSI appeal to the Tibetan people to stop wearing endangered
tiger and leopard skins, and urge international organisations to
support awareness initiatives to get the message to consumers as fast
EIA and WPSI are calling on the Indian government to immediately
establish a professionally-led enforcement unit to target the wildlife
who are controlling the trade, and the Chinese government to undertake
enforcement actions to stop the smugglers and traders of tiger and
To find out more about EIA visit http://www.eia-international.org
To find out more about WPSI visit http://www.wpsi-india.org