Lifting Chinese tiger trade ban a catastrophe for conservation - WWF, TRAFFIC



    VANCOUVER, March 13 /CNW/ - Any lifting or easing of the current Chinese
ban in tiger trade is likely to be the death sentence for the endangered cat
species, a new TRAFFIC report says.
    The report warns that Chinese business owners who stand to profit from
the tiger trade are putting increasing pressure on the Chinese government to
overturn the 1993 ban. This would allow domestic trade in captive-bred tiger
parts for use in traditional medicine and for clothing to resume.
    According to WWF and TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring programme of
WWF and IUCN - the World Conservation Union) the Chinese ban has been
essential to prevent the extinction of tigers by curbing demand in what was
historically the world's largest consumer in tiger parts. In compliance with
the resolutions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the ban has virtually eliminated the domestic
market for tiger products in traditional medicines.
    "In the early 1990s, we feared that Chinese demand for tiger parts would
drive the tiger to extinction by the new millennium. The tiger survives today
thanks in large part to China's prompt, strict and committed action," said
Ernie Cooper, WWF-Canada's Director for TRAFFIC and Wildlife Trade. "To
overturn the ban and allow any trade in captive-bred tiger products would
waste all the efforts that China has invested in saving wild tigers. It would
be a catastrophe for tiger conservation."
    Measures to implement and enforce the Chinese trade ban have ranged from
public education campaigns and promotion of effective substitutes for tiger
medicines to severe punishment for lawbreakers, the report shows. As a result,
undercover surveys by TRAFFIC found little tiger bone available in China. Less
than 3 per cent of 663 medicine shops and dealers claimed to stock it, and
most retailers were aware that tigers are protected and illegal to trade.
    The situation in Canada is similar. Before the 1993 Chinese ban on tiger
trade, illegally imported tiger bone products could be found on Canadian store
shelves and Canadian wildlife enforcement officers routinely intercepted large
shipments of these goods. Today tiger products are rarely found in Canada.
    However, a TRAFFIC survey documented 17 instances of tiger bone wine for
sale on Chinese auction websites, with one seller offering a lot of 5,000
bottles. And demand for big cat skins as status symbol clothing, particularly
in China's Tibetan Autonomous Region, is increasing, with about 3 per cent of
Tibetans in major towns claiming to own tiger or leopard skin garments even
though they knew it was illegal.
    Investors in the growing number of large-scale captive-breeding "tiger
farms" in China are pushing for legalizing trade of products from these
facilities, which now house 4,000 tigers, the report adds.
    "Allowing trade in tiger parts to resume, even if they are from
captive-bred tigers, would inevitably lead to an increase in demand for such
products," said Cooper. "A legal market in China could give poachers across
Asia an avenue for 'laundering' tigers killed in the wild, especially as
farmed and wild tiger products are indistinguishable in the marketplace.
Canada would once again provide a market for smuggled tiger bone products."
    WWF and TRAFFIC call on the Chinese government to maintain its domestic
trade ban; strengthen its efforts to enforce the law against the illegal trade
in tigers and other Asian big cats, particularly of skins; impose a moratorium
on all tiger breeding; destroy the stocks of tiger carcasses; and increase
public awareness of the current trade ban.

    
    NOTES TO EDITORS:
    -----------------

    -   A copy of the report can be downloaded from:
http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/species/publications/index.cfm
    -   Fewer than 7,000 tigers remain in the wild. Around 9,000 exist in
        captivity, the vast majority in the USA and China.
    





For further information:

For further information: Ernie Cooper, Director, TRAFFIC & Wildlife
Trade, WWF-Canada, (604) 678-5152, Cell (604) 376-6096, ecooper@wwfcanada.org


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