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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 Rajasthan.
•    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 chupas.
•    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 2006.


•    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.

Limited Enforcement

•    Between 1994 and August 2006 there have been at least 978 cases where the skins of tiger, leopard or otter have been seized.

•    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 international borders.

•    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.

International Concern

•    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 improved.

•    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




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