Status of Tiger and Leopard
• Tigers (Panthera tigris) and Leopards
(Panthera pardus) are listed on Appendix I of the UN Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) thereby prohibiting
all international trade.
• Indian and Chinese laws do not allow the
killing, smuggling, buying or selling of tiger or leopard parts.
• Over 100 years ago, there were an estimated
100,000 tigers across Asia. Today there are probably fewer than 5,000
wild tigers worldwide.
• Wild tigers are threatened by poaching for
international trade, prey population decline and habitat loss.
• Over the last six years, the demand for skins
has spiralled out of control and is now the major driving force behind
the poaching of tigers and leopards in India.
• In February 2005, news broke that poachers had
wiped out the entire tiger population of Sariska Tiger Reserve in
• Tiger populations in other Tiger Reserves in
India have also plummeted leading some experts to believe that only
1,200 to 1,500 wild tigers now remain in India.
• In 2004, EIA released a report entitled
‘The Tiger Skin Trail’ which documented the trade routes
used to smuggle poached skins from India via Nepal into Tibet and China.
• In 2005, the Wildlife Protection Society of
India (WPSI) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed
the use of skins for decorating Tibetan costumes as being the primary
market driving the killing of India’s tigers.
Tiger and Leopard Skin Markets in China
• In July and August 2006, investigators from
WPSI and EIA visited Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region
(TAR), and Linxia in Gansu Province, and attended horse festivals in
Litang, Sichuan and Nagchu, TAR.
• They documented the open availability and
wearing of tiger, leopard, and otter skins and discovered that the
trade in the skins of these endangered species is still thriving in
Lhasa and Linxia, despite being exposed in 2005.
• WPSI and EIA were offered 11 whole tiger skins
and 8 whole leopard skins in Lhasa. The same team was offered one whole
tiger skin, 42 whole leopard skins and 9 snow leopard skins in Linxia.
• Traders informed WPSI and EIA that their skins
are sourced from India and trafficked into Tibet via Nepal. They added
that they had a regular supply of tiger skins. One trader said that he
could supply up to six tiger skins every two months.
• Up until early 2006, the primary market for
tiger and leopard skins was for decorating Tibetan costumes, known as
• During the recent investigation, WPSI/EIA
witnessed an increase in the market for whole skins sold to wealthy
Chinese buyers for home décor and prestigious gifts, and a
decrease in the demand for skins amongst Tibetans.
• The fall in the demand for skins amongst
Tibetans was the result of consumer awareness campaigns launched in
2005, including statements made by The Dalai Lama, and not as a result
of effective enforcement.
• Tibetan communities throughout the Tibetan
Plateau burnt their skins at huge public events in February and March
• According to official records of seizures
gathered by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI)
between September 2005 and now, there have been 27 tiger skins, 199
leopard skins and 254 otter skins seized in India and Nepal.
• This represents only a fraction of the total
number of tigers and leopards killed by poachers during this time.
• Between 1994 and August 2006 there have been
at least 978 cases where the skins of tiger, leopard or otter have been
• There have been 1,898 people accused in the
above cases. However, only 30 people are confirmed as having been
convicted and sentenced in association with these cases.
• The proposed Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has still not been established.
Transnational Organised Crime
• The trade in tiger and leopard skins is
controlled by sophisticated criminal networks operating across
• The UN has recognized the significant negative
economic and social implications associated with transnational
organized crime, including illegal wildlife trade.
• The CITES Secretariat has identified key
indicators of organised crime relevant to illegal wildlife trade, most
of which apply to the trade in skins.
• At the 11th Conference of the Parties to CITES
in 2000, a recommendation to establish specialised enforcement units
and improve regional communication and cooperation was approved.
• At the same meeting, the Parties to CITES
approved the establishment of the Tiger Enforcement Task Force to look
at ways in which enforcement to combat the illicit skin trade can be
• The CITES Standing Committee meets in Geneva,
2 - 6 October 2006, where the illegal trade in tigers and other Asian
big cat species will be discussed. In particular documents SC54 Doc
25.1 and SC54 Doc 25.2 submitted by the CITES Secretariat and the US
Government make a number of important recommendations related to
tackling the illicit trade in tiger parts.
For more information please contact
WPSI: Belinda Wright or Onkuri Majumdar at
(+91.11) 4163 5920 /21 /22
EIA: Ashley Misplon at
+91 98 112 89879 or +44 20 7354 7960