Soaring demand from China threatens wild tigers

  • February 2, 2015

 

Soaring demand for tiger parts in China has emptied Asia’s forests, frustrating efforts to protect the big cats, wildlife experts said as an anti-poaching conference opened in Kathmandu on Monday.

Around 100 experts, government and law enforcement officials from 13 nations are attending the five-day summit, co-hosted by Nepal to hammer out a regional plan to fight poaching.

Conservationists’ goals, said one Nepalese conservationist, should not be limited to “zero poaching but (include) zero demand as well”.

While Beijing was praised for its efforts to save the wild cats from extinction the issue is so huge that it is diffcult to address suggested another speaker.

“When you have a cultural perception among wealthy people in China that owning a tiger is a matter of prestige, you can’t change it overnight,” WWF’s Mike Baltzer told AFP on the sidelines of the conference. “Dealing with demand will take a long time, poaching needs to be the focus otherwise it will be too late to save the tiger.”

Decades of trafficking and habitat destruction have slashed the global tiger population from 100,000 a century ago to approximately 3,000, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Tiger bones have long been an ingredient of traditional Chinese medicine, supposedly for a capacity to strengthen the human body. The animal is also hunted for its pelt, which can fetch up to $16,000 on the black market, and for its penis, believed to increase male sexual performance.

Conservationists singled out India and Nepal for their strong performance and urged other countries attending the summit to prioritise wildlife protection.

India in January reported a 30 percent jump in its tiger population since 2010, while Nepal saw numbers rise almost two thirds between 2009 and 2013.

“There is little point in maintaining pristine forest complexes if the tigers are gone,” says TigerTime. “Anti-poaching is important to stabilize the issue in the field but the real threat to the world’s tigers is demand. And with over a billion people in China lined up as potential consumers it is a demand that threatens to overwhelm wild populations.”

“If you haven’t already lent your support to our ban tiger trade campaign please do. The world’s wild tigers are at a crossroads, please help us keep them from the road to extinction.”

Find out more about banning the tiger trade at https://davidshepherd.org/our-work/tigers