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Wild Tigers on the Brink; Environmentalists Call for China and India to Combat the Illicit Skin Trade 

27th September 2006

Status of Tiger and Leopard
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Environmentalists are calling on the governments of India and China to take©WPSI action against the criminals involved in the illegal skin trade. The subject will be a major topic of discussion by the international community attending the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Standing Committee, who will be meeting in Geneva from 2 to 6 October 2006.

Recent undercover investigations by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
and the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) revealed that the trade in tiger and leopard skins in China and Tibet continues to thrive, operating without any hindrance from the Chinese government whilst driving India’s wild tigers closer towards extinction.

©WPSIInvestigators discovered that while the open use of tiger and leopard skins for decorating costumes seemed to be in decline, traders now appeared to be catering to an increased demand for the use of whole tiger and leopard skins as home décor and prestigious gifts. Consumers driving this demand include Chinese tourists, local Chinese businessmen and government officials.

Belinda Wright, Director of WPSI stated; “Despite many promises from both the Indian and Chinese governments, no effective action has been taken to crack down on the hardcore criminals behind the skin trade. The governments involved are in a state of lethargy, and, in the case of China, even appear to be condoning the trade.”

In the markets of China, investigators documented the open and easily©WPSI accessible trade in tiger and leopard skins. In the space of just ten days, investigators met 11 traders who offered them whole tiger and leopard skins. The traders were clearly aware of the illegality of their operations, but were unconcerned about the threat of arrest or disruption by local authorities; one trader even said that enforcement had decreased in the last two years. 

Debbie Banks, Head of EIA’s Tiger Campaign, stated; “This trade is run by highly organised criminal networks who have far too much invested to let a few isolated raids and random seizures deter them. If the governments are to stand a chance of combating this illegal trade, they will need to recognise this and direct their enforcement teams
to take more proactive, intelligence-led action.”

The USA government has submitted a document for discussion at the 54th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee on the illegal trade in tiger parts. This document recommends that the members agree on parameters for measuring progress by tiger range states to combat the trade. If endorsed, Parties such as China and India would have to show that sufficient action has been taken by April 2007, or risk the suspension of trade in CITES listed species.

EIA and WPSI call on all Parties to CITES to recognise the urgency of the matter. They also urge the wider international community to provide financial support and enforcement expertise to facilitate the development of specialised, multi-agency enforcement units capable of tackling the organised criminal networks behind this illicit trade.

Wright continued: “Enforcement is not controversial or the subject of scientific debate. It is quite simply essential. The clock is ticking for the tiger and there is only so much more talking we can do, the time for action is now, before the last tiger vanishes”.


For more information please contact:

Belinda Wright, WPSI on +91 11 4163 5920/ 21
Ashley Misplon, EIA on +44 (0)20 7354 7960





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