Indian Express, Monday , Oct 26, 2009
New Delhi : A day after India and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on environment and climate change, including management of forests, a new investigation has revealed that skins and other body parts of Indian wild tigers and leopards are being sold openly in China and at much higher prices than before.
The investigation carried out by an international NGO, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), states that the prices of tiger and leopard parts in Chinese markets have doubled since 2005: tiger skins are selling for 11,660-21,860 dollars, leopard skins for 1,020-2,770 dollars.
During the investigation, which was carried out in July and August this year for a total of 21 days in parts of western China and Tibet, around 9 nine tiger skins, 12 leopard skins and nearly 50 other leopard derivatives were found in various shops. In Tibet, 9 people were found wearing tiger skins and 25 people wearing leopard skins.
The fact that the prices have escalated as per the EIA’s report show that the demand has gone up. “As compared to 2005, prices of parts of both animals have more than doubled,” says Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Among the products available in Chinese and Tibetan shops were full skins for mounting on walls, capes with leopard and tiger trim, bones, skeletons, teeth and skulls, and chupas (Tibetan capes) made with leopard and tiger skins. All skins were reportedly procured over the past year and traders said they were brought from India.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has said it was worried that the demand for tiger and leopard parts will rise with China celebrating the year of the tiger in 2010.
Taking note of this, a delegation from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is scheduled to visit China in November and discuss tiger poaching.
This follows a visit of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to China earlier this year where the issue was discussed.
“The EIA report shows that tiger and leopard poaching is continuing in China. The year of the tiger will only create more illegal demand for poached products. Joint action between India and China on this may not be possible, but we need to know that China is committed to ending poaching. We also want China to shut down its tiger farms where the animal is bred commercially. These are the issues that will be taken up during our visit to China,” said Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTCA.
However, signs from China, especially on the eve of the year of the tiger, are not encouraging. Ramesh told The Indian Express that on his visit to China he was told that the country will act against tiger poaching only when India checked poaching of Chiru Tibetan antelope in Ladakh.
While there is a domestic ban on trade of leopards and tigers in China, the illegal market is huge and thriving. “If an NGO with such limited resources can find so many illegal products on sale, it should not be hard for Chinese officials to do the same. The Chinese government is not showing willingness to enforce the ban,” said Debbie Banks from EIA.