Tigers: a vanishing act
February 5, 2008 — Updated 1627 GMT (0027 HKT)
GUANGZHOU, China (CNN) — The wild population of all tigers — including Bengal, Sumatran, Siberian and Indochinese tigers — stands at a maximum of 7,000 and a minimum of 5,000, according to figures from the World Wildlife Fund.
In southern China, the WWF estimates there are a mere 30 tigers in the wild, making them functionally extinct.
In 1993, China became a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty that includes nearly 170 member countries.
China put a long awaited ban on trading tiger bones, flesh and skins.
However, tiger farms, where the WWF estimates about 4-5,000 tigers are bred for their body parts, have been set up to circumvent laws.
Owners and investors in these farms have set up a strong lobby to have the current laws repealed as the Internet opens a new frontier for sales in tiger parts and products made from tiger skin and bone, according to the group TRAFFIC, which monitors the trade in endangered species.
While China maintains the death penalty for wildlife crimes ranging from poaching to trafficking, growing affluence has put many exotic foods within the reach of more people.
Willem Wijnstekers, head of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), has likened controlling illegal imports and exports in China to mopping up the floor with the tap running.
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