China ignoring tiger trade: campaign group

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China ignoring tiger trade: campaign group

(AFP) – October 23, 2009

NEW DELHI — China is turning a blind eye to the thriving illegal trade in tiger parts, a campaign group said Thursday following an undercover investigation in western China and Tibet.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a British-based organisation, showed photos it said were taken by a spy camera revealing the “rampant” sale of tiger and white leopard skins, bones and claws in retail stores.

The majority of tiger parts sold in China are smuggled from India via Nepal and the lack of enforcement of a ban on the trade is hobbling efforts by New Delhi to save the animal, it said.

“China has really run out of excuses… if they can put a man into space, they can do more to save the wild tiger,” Debbie Banks, lead campaigner at the EIA, told a press conference here.

Tigers attract huge sums of money in China and elsewhere in Asia, with their body parts used in traditional medicines and aphrodisiacs while their skins are used for furniture and decoration.

The report called “A Deadly Game of Cat and Mouse” comes just five days before a Global Tiger Workshop scheduled in Nepal where international experts and officials are to discuss the dwindling numbers of the animal worldwide.

No more than a few dozen wild tigers are left in China and only a couple of thousand live in their native habitat worldwide, according to EIA figures.

Tiger skins fetch anywhere around 11,660-21,860 US dollars and bones are sold for about 1,250 US dollars per kilogram, the report stated.

“China has to enforce a blanket ban on tiger part trade, India’s conservation plans to protect the endangered species greatly depend on them,” added Banks.

Tiger hunting is illegal worldwide and the trade in tiger parts is banned under a treaty binding 167 countries, including India.

China outlawed the sale of tiger bones and hides in 1993, but there have been suggestions in the past that the country might lift the ban.

In August this year, India’s Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh met his Chinese counterpart to discuss how to save the tiger but no consensus was reached.

Experts said the porous border between India and Nepal continues to serve as a smuggling corridor for the poachers, who bribe poor forest dwellers to guide them through the dense jungles.

China is the only country in the world to allow mass breeding of tigers, with 5,000 of the big cats housed in huge farms in the northeast and southwest.

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