Amur tiger under threat after year of tragic losses
China’s encouragement of captive-breeding facilities for tigers to supply an expanding legal domestic trade in tiger skins could be a key contributor in the sad death toll of Amur tigers and the abandonment of Amur tiger cubs in the Russian Far East that has been documented over the last twelve months.
According to the Phoenix Fund – a Russian NGO supported by UK-based conservation charity the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) – eight Amur tiger cubs have been orphaned and between 17 and 20 have been killed since February 2012. With as few as 450 Amur tigers estimated to be left in the wild, this is a rate of loss the species cannot sustain.
“There are no words to express our indignation. In less than a year eight tiger cubs have been orphaned and we are certain that their mothers died at the hands of poachers,” says Sergei Bereznuk, Director of the Phoenix Fund. “If we also add the unprecedented number of seizures of tiger skins and bones by law enforcement officers in Primorye and Khabarovsk, we have lost around 20 Amur tigers in just over 12 months. At this current rate the depletion of the gene pool will create an unsustainable future for the Amur tiger.”
Bereznuk puts the blame not only on the increased stimulation of the trade in tiger parts by consumer countries such as China but also on the State Duma (the council responsible for setting Russia’s legislative agenda) which has procrastinated for too long over whether to make the capturing, trade and transportation of rare and endangered species a criminal offence.
“While we wait for legislation to be passed poachers and wildlife traffickers are trying to stockpile as many tiger skins and bones as possible. So, as the state deals with other problems they consider more important, the Amur tiger population heads towards extinction,” adds Bereznuk.
While the loss of tigers in protected areas remains low the refusal of local officials in charge of nature conservation to improve anti-poaching management has become an added frustration.
“We are ready to assist them with the introduction of and training in the Management Information System (MIST), but lack of commitment by local officials is hindering the process. We hope that these dismal facts about the loss of tigers outside protected areas will make them think again about the necessity to take urgent action.”
While the team in Russia collects signatures for a petition to speed up the process of criminalizing the possession, transportation and trade of rare and endangered species, the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation is launching a new website for its TigerTime campaign – www.tigertime.info – to raise awareness of the issues facing all wild tigers and to urge people to petition to ban the trade in tiger parts from all sources – www.bantigertrade.com
“The stimulation of the trade in tiger parts by the legal and illegal breeding schemes of consumer countries is putting unbearable pressure on the wild tiger,” says TigerTime campaign manager, Chantelle Henderson. “With only an estimated 3,200 tigers left in the wild we need to petition world governments to stop stimulating the demand and to put an end to the tiger trade. Protecting the tiger should be seen as an issue of international importance. Everyone can get involved and make a difference by signing the TigerTime petition www.bantigertrade.com ”