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Tiger Skin Trade Still Ongoing, China Admits

Jul 17, 2014 12:14 PM EDT
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China has admitted for the first time ever that it permits the illegal trade of captive tigers' skins at an international convention, according to participants and officials who attended the meeting. Pictured: Siberian tiger cubs are seen at the Dalian Forest Zoo in Dalian, Liaoning province.
(Photo : Reuters)

China has admitted for the first time ever that it permits the illegal trade of captive tigers' skins at an international convention, according to participants and officials who attended the meeting.

"We don't ban trade in tiger skins but we do ban trade in tiger bones," a member of the Chinese delegation at the meeting said, BBC News reported.

The officials were taking part in a meeting for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva when Chinese members officially admitted to the ongoing trade.

China keeps between 5,000 and 6,000 tigers in captivity, and when those tigers die or are put down their skin and bones are sold under the radar to those citizens who value them for decorative purposes, according to the Smithsonian.

The admission followed a report presented at the convention on how China's government facilitates the tiger skin trade, officials at the CITES meeting say. The report suggested that around 1,600 tigers, both from captivity and the wild, have been traded globally since 2000.

"The report presented in the meeting created a situation that required China to respond," an anonymous participant told BBC.

"Basically when the meeting focused on the findings of this report, the Chinese delegate intervened," he said. "It was the first time they admitted officially that this trade exists in China."

It is believed that "tiger farming" in China has fuelled demand for the poaching and trafficking of the endangered species elsewhere. Wildlife experts say other South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia are also getting into the tiger farming trade.

The poachers and traders involved in this illegal market also deal in the skins of leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards, taking their teeth and the bones also.

Anyone caught partaking in the tiger skin trade can go to jail for up to 10 years, according to the Smithsonian, but clearly offenders are still flying under the radar.

Conservationists hope that China's admission will curb these illegal activities, especially given that only 3,000 tigers are left in the wild.

"Denial mode does not help solve the problem but once you accept what is happening, it's easy to move ahead," SP Yadav, deputy inspector general of India's National Tiger Conservation Authority, told BBC.

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