Year of the Tiger: India raises poaching alarm, Beijing cool
Neha Sinha Posted online: Monday , Aug 31, 2009 at 0848 hrs
New Delhi : WITH 2010 being the Chinese ‘year of the tiger’ — which comes once in 12 years and when demand for tiger and leopard parts shoots up — a team of Indian wildlife officials will visit China in November to specifically discuss tiger and leopard poaching.
The meeting between officials drawn from the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, and Chinese officials was finalised during the visit of Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh to China this week.
During Ramesh’s trip, tiger poaching was one of the issues on agenda. In a written statement to Chinese officials, his ministry submitted that one of India’s main concerns was that demand for tiger and leopard skins and bones would go up in 2010. India also asked China to enforce a tiger skin registration scheme and crack down on tiger trade through Nepal.
“The dialogue and enforcement on tiger conservation needs to be taken forward. This is why a team from Project Tiger and wildlife enforcement officers will be visiting China as a lot more needs to be done especially in this year of the tiger,” Ramesh told The Indian Express.
The ministry has also contended that China should restrict its tiger farms as this creates a demand for Indian wild tiger products and has urged China to keep a domestic tiger-trade ban in place.
But the Chinese response appears to be lukewarm. Responding to concerns of tiger poaching for Chinese demand, the Chinese officials said India was not doing enough to check Chiru (Tibetan Antelope) poaching. They also said that there is no link between Chinese tiger farms and Indian tiger poaching.
Ramesh said he does not agree with China linking Chiru poaching to that of the tiger. “The case of poaching of the Chiru antelope and the tiger are totally different things,” he said. The statement submitted to China made the case that breeding tigers “on a commercial scale” was a serious threat to tiger conservation efforts. It said that there are no techniques to distinguish a wild tiger part from that of a farmed tiger. “Raising a farmed tiger is 250 times more expensive than poaching a wild tiger,” it said, inferring that poachers will always prefer poaching wild tigers in India.
India has a protocol on tiger conservation with China, which was signed in 1995. One of the main planks of the protocol is joint conservation. However, nothing has moved on the protocol and communication between the two countries has been low.
India had asked China at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) summit to shut down large-scale tiger farms, and only keep the farms ‘at a level supportive of tiger conservation in the wild’ (proceeds from these tourist attractions are supposed to go to wild tiger conservation). CITES has now asked China to file a report on its tiger farms and what steps were being taken to restrict trade in tiger parts.