European Parliament Offers to Help India Save Wild Tigers
BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 24, 2008 (ENS) - In advance of the Europe-India summit in Marseille next Monday, the European Parliament today passed a resolution calling on both parties to renew efforts to save the wild tiger, and to place the issue on the summit agenda.
The resolution calls on both Europe and India to redouble efforts to tackle the organized gangs behind the trafficking of tiger parts, and to work together to protect forest habitats.
In June, the government of India established a dedicated agency for tackling wildlife crime, the Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau.
The parliamentary resolution, "Welcomes the foundation of the Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, while remaining deeply concerned about the plight of the wild tiger, and calls on India to protect tigers from habitat loss and trafficking by transnational criminal networks."
Baroness Sarah Ludford, Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for London, who has campaigned on the issue, said, "By setting up the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, India has taken an important step towards improving enforcement and tackling the networks behind illegal tiger trade."
"By raising this issue we are calling for the European Union to offer technical and financial assistance, and to ensure that the issue gets maximum political support," said Ludford.
The resolution calls for specific EU assistance for this conservation effort in the form of technical expertise, financial support and the reinforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international treaty that lists all subspecies of tigers as endangered and prohibits trade in live tigers or their parts.
Currently, there may be as few as 2,500 tigers left in the wild, of which just over half are in India, says the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit group based in London, UK and Washington, DC, which works to combat environmental crime.
These few thousand tigers are the only ones left from the 100,000 wild tigers that are estimated to have lived at the beginning of the 20th century, according to the IUCN's Cat Specialist Group.
These remaining tigers are threatened by demand for their skins and body parts from China and East Asia, and habitat loss due to forest clearance and illegal industrial development.
Currently the main demand for tiger products comes from China, where bones and body parts are used in medicine; while skins are used for home décor, clothing and non-financial bribes.
Recent undercover work by the Environmental Investigation Agency, found whole tiger skins on sale in China for RMB 100,000 (US$15,000).
Despite widespread evidence of the serious and organized nature of wildlife and environmental crime, enforcement efforts in many parts of the world remain inadequate.
Still, conservationists are optimistic, pointing out that if the right measures are taken tigers can recover rapidly.
Alasdair Cameron of the Environmental Investigation Agency said, "Protecting the tiger is not just about protecting a species, but about protecting the forests it lives in and the ecosystems which depend on it.
"In many cases we know what we need to do, but it requires political will," said Cameron. "India has taken the lead in developing a 21st century approach to wildlife crime, we need other countries like China to do the same."