Tiger farm issue kept high on CITES agenda

  • July 31, 2012

The issue of tiger farms was kept high on the agenda at the 62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in Geneva, Switzerland last week. Negotiations over a decision which calls for actions in countries that have tiger farms were fraught with tension.

On Wednesday, the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) Secretariat reported on all the positive actions taking place to save wild tigers, but closed with an alert to CITES Parties over the “mushrooming” of tiger farms, not just in China but across South East Asia.

India followed, expressing again its concern over the lack of reporting on action to phase out tiger farms and over the growing stocks of tiger skins, bones and carcasses that are piling up in freezers on tiger farms. It pointed out that CITES adopted a decision way back in 2007 calling for an end to tiger farming but there has been inadequate reporting on progress.

The CITES meeting needed to agree a deadline by which Parties must report on actions taken to end farming, and actions to be taken to “consolidate and destroy” stockpiles. India went on to make it clear that CITES must be prepared to address non-compliance in this regard. It was time to get tough.

China was quick off the mark to claim that illegal trade has been well controlled in its country in recent years, that it doesn’t allow trade in tiger bone for medicinal purposes (no mention of its legal skin trade!), that it hasn’t seen any evidence of trade from farmed tigers, and is not aware of tiger farms affecting wild tiger conservation.

The UK, on behalf of the European Union and as a member of the CITES Standing Committee, stepped in to support the suggestion from India regarding time-bound reporting requirements.

After a couple of tense hours, and a tiny modification to language, the agreement was reached that the CITES Secretariat will send a Notification to Parties, reminding them of their reporting obligations, to enable a full assessment at the 16th CoPnext March, and that the Notification should stress that the reporting requirements relate to all Asian big cats and not just tigers, and should also stress the need for information relating to compliance with Decision 14.69 by requesting:

• that all Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale fully implement Decision 14.69 in respect of the number of breeding operations and also the total number of tigers;
• all Parties to declare stockpiles of captive-bred or confiscated tiger body parts and derivatives along with actions proposed to “deal with” (originally it said “consolidate and destroy”) the stockpiles (originally said “the same”).

This is a step in the right direction for monitoring and shutting down the tiger trade. YOU can help us by signing www.bantigertrade.com and asking others to do the same.

We also need vital funds to support not only our tiger protection programmes in India, Russia and Thailand but also undercover investigation into the illegal tiger trade. Please donate here.

Source: Debbie Banks, Lead Campaigner, EIA and TigerTime partner – click here for her full report