Efforts to control tiger trade “failed miserably”: CITES
Narayan Lakshman Washington DC, March 16, 2010
Governments across the world have “failed miserably and… are continuing to fail” to halt the growth of illegal poaching and trade in tiger body parts, said Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). “Although the tiger has been prized throughout history, and is a symbol of incredible importance in many cultures and religions, it is now literally on the verge of extinction,” he added.
The comments came during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, in Doha, Qatar, where representatives of nearly 150 nations will vote on over 40 proposals on restricting trade in endangered species. The “miserable failure” comment reflected the poor record of the Global Tiger Initiative, a partnership of governments, international agencies and non-governmental organisations working collaboratively to save the tiger.
Pointing out that 2010 was the Chinese Year of the Tiger and the International Year of Biodiversity; Mr. Wijnstekers said that the trend must be reversed this year. “If we don’t, it will be to our everlasting shame,” he warned. According to CITES in the early 1900s, tigers were found throughout Asia and numbered over 100,000. Current estimates suggest that fewer than 3,200 of these remain in the wild.
The World Bank, which leads the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), was reported to have found that the trade was being spurred by privately run tiger farms in Asian countries such as China. Further, scientific studies in India have demonstrated that most wild tiger populations there would not be able to withstand even small increases in poaching over time. While China banned trade in tiger bones and products in 1993, the illicit sale of tiger bones and parts has continued.
In a 2007 report titled “Taming the Tiger Trade”, the WWF said that any easing of the current Chinese ban on trading products made from tigers would be a death sentence for the endangered cats. The report warned that Chinese business owners who would profit from the tiger trade are increasing pressure on the Chinese government to overturn its successful 1993 ban.
CITES criticised the ineffective policies to protect the tiger. “It is almost four decades since the world realised that tiger numbers were falling alarmingly,” it said, alluding to the tens of millions of dollars that governments and the conservation community spent to try and save this animal.