Urgent Action Required to end Tiger Farming and Trade

  • January 11, 2016

Image courtesy Save Tiger Fund

TigerTime is one of a number of organizations that believes there should be a Zero Demand approach to the trade in tiger parts and derivatives to achieve Zero Poaching. This means an end to tiger farming and all domestic and international trade in parts and derivatives of tigers from captive facilities.

That is precisely what the international community called for in 2007; however China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam continue to have tiger farms and are implicated in the captive tiger trade.

The government of China has authorized a domestic trade in the skins of captive bred tigers for use as luxury home décor and for taxidermy which stimulates demand for the world’s remaining wild tigers, instead of reducing it. How can we expect demand-reduction campaigns to work in China if the government itself tells consumers that it is acceptable to buy tiger skins?

Tigers in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Russian Far East are still being targeted for markets in China and among Chinese consumers in Myanmar and Lao PDR. There is also a thriving market in Vietnam and Indonesia. Tigers are not just killed for their skins; their bones are used to brew “tiger bone wine”, meat is sold as a delicacy, and teeth and claws are sold as charms.

As reflected by seizures, these end markets are the confluence of tigers sourced from both wild as well as captive tigers. So long as legal and illegal trade in tigers from captive facilities continues, demand reduction and enforcement efforts are undermined, wild tigers everywhere are at risk, and the chances of recovery of wild tiger populations in China and south east Asia are minimal.

In 2007, in recognition of the risk posed by tiger “farming” to wild populations, the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), decided that it should be stopped. Countries with tiger farms e.g. China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam have failed to implement this decision. Even South Africa has engaged in this lucrative game and is exporting captive tiger body parts to Asian markets.

Not enough has been done to investigate the facilities involved, amend laws to end “farming”, destroy stocks of tiger parts and derivatives and ultimately end demand. A comprehensive assessment of the trade in tigers and other Asian big cats was prepared for the CITES Parties by the IUCN in June 2014. The review highlighted examples of good practice from India, where there are no tiger “farms”, and where over two-thirds of the worlds remaining wild tigers survive.

The international community has let this threat to wild tigers drag on for too long. It is time for more decisive action towards Zero Demand, and to penalise those countries that are implicated in tiger farming and trade in captive tiger parts and products.

At the 66th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, January 2016, we urge Parties to call upon China, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam to demonstrate that they have improved enforcement against captive facilities engaged in illegal trade in tiger parts and derivatives and adopt time-bound commitments to amend legislation to prohibit legal domestic trade in tiger parts and derivatives from captive facilities, phase out tiger “farms”, and destroy stockpiles of tiger parts and derivatives. Failure to implement these actions should be subject to trade sanctions, with progress being reviewed at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES, in September 2016.

CITES should seek the assistance of INTERPOL and other partners in the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) to review enforcement actions and offer further law enforcement support to Parties implicated in international illegal trade of tiger parts and derivatives from captive facilities.

TigerTime believes that if these actions are not taken as a matter of urgency then the fate of the world’s remaining wild tigers will continue to hang in the balance.