Cats Protection Inverurie
Tigers in Danger
Small tiger

Asia's tiger skin trade the latest threat to species


BANGKOK (AFP) - The illicit trade in tiger and leopard skins in Asia is spiralling out of control and threatens the rare animals' futures unless China and India crack down on smugglers, wildlife investigators warned.

An estimated 5,000 tigers remain in the wild, half of them in India. They have been hunted for generations for their bones and other parts for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

But a surge in demand for the big cats' pelts, particularly in China, poses a "grave and dangerous threat to tigers", the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said.

"The trade has been spiralling out of control for the last five years," EIA senior campaigner Debbie Banks told reporters at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Trade in tiger and leopard parts is banned under the CITES treaty, signed by 166 countries.

The skins are often smuggled along ancient trade routes where policing and border controls are inadequate, the group said.

It said more than 75 tiger skins and 1,075 leopard skins have been seized since 1999. They can sell in Asian cities for up to 10,000 dollars each.

EIA said the biggest ever seizure said to be worth $1.2m (£670,000), was in in October last year when the skins of 31 tigers, 581 leopards and 778 otters were found in a single consignment near Lhasa in Tibet, considered a trafficking hub.

The group commended the governments of India, China and Nepal for efforts to crack down on the trade but said more needed to be done.

Wan Ziming, from China's State Forestry Administration, told reporters that China had embarked on public awareness campaigns to reduce demand for tiger parts.

"Detailed field investigations reveal the existence of well-organised syndicates trafficking tiger and leopard skins between India, Nepal... and China," said the report.

"Tigers poached in India are ending up as luxury decor in the homes of wealthy Chinese, and are often smuggled through Nepal."

It called for a better co-ordinated effort to stop the trade, which is illegal under the Cites treaty signed by 166 nations.

The EIA said there were fewer than 5,000 wild tigers left in the world -
down from about 100,000 a century ago.
About half of them live in India.

"Tigers poached in India are ending up as luxury decor in the homes of wealthy Chinese"

But the group pointed out that poaching was not the only threat to wild tigers.

Their decline in numbers, it said, could also be attributed to the destruction of their natural habitat and a growing lack of prey such as deer and cattle.

1,075 leopard skins have been seized since 1999