China’s illegal tiger trade feeds on India
New Delhi, September 17, 2009
The continuing illegal trade of tiger parts in China is raising serious concerns in India where the endangered animal is being poached to feed the supply lines across the border.
Chinese traders are buying tiger parts from Indian poachers at exorbitant prices, putting Indian tigers at a greater risk. There is a huge demand for tiger skin and parts in China, especially now that it’s set to celebrate 2010 as the year of the tiger. According to Chinese astrology, keeping a tiger part brings good luck.
Though China has banned the sale of tiger products, it has done precious little to check the illegal tiger trade.
India has now asked China to shut down tiger farms that are engaged illegal tiger trade. But China’s response has so far not been very encouraging.
“We are sending a delegation from India sometime in the first half of November to discuss issues relating to tiger conservation,” said Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh.
Ramesh said India has been in talks with China on the issue. “We have (already) discussed the smuggling of tiger and leopard parts across the Nepal and Myanmar borders into China. The talks on tiger parts weren’t much of a success. Both sides heard each other,” he said.
How the illegal trade works
Tiger skin and parts are transported by Indian poachers via Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to Nepal, from where they make their way into China. The trail also runs through north-east India into Myanmar, from where it reaches China.
Tiger parts in Chinese medicine
Each tiger part has some use or the other in traditional Chinese cures even though it has been scientifically proved to have no medicinal value.
The tiger’s teeth are used to treat fever. Its eyeballs are believed to cure epilepsy and malaria and the leather of its nose is used for wounds.
The tiger’s whiskers apparently cure toothaches. And if one has insomnia, tiger claws are believed to help. It is believed that skin diseases can be cured with the tiger’s tail and its brain can be used to rid you of lethargy.
The tiger’s bile treats convulsions in children with meningitis and the bones are used to treat rheumatism and arthritis, general weakness, headaches, paralysis and dysentery. Tiger fat is used to treat leprosy and rheumatism.
The tiger population is fast depleting in India. The national tiger census figures released last year put the total number at 1,411 – a drastic drop of 60 percent from 1997 when there were 3,508 tigers.
At least 66 tigers have lost their lives this year. Of these, 25 were poached. Maharashtra accounted for seven cases of poaching followed by Karnataka, Assam and Uttarakhand with six each.