Target:
Protect tigers
Region:
GLOBAL

Illegal Tiger Trade Must End

Tigers may soon disappear from the wild unless more effective efforts are made to halt illegal trade. Tiger numbers have decreased dramatically in recent decades due to poaching to supply the illegal trade in tiger parts.

Tiger bones and other parts are used in traditional medicines to treat arthritis and other conditions. And the animals' skins are used as clothing for certain cultural ceremonies and even as decorative objects such as rugs and wall hangings.

Fewer than 3,500-4,000 tigers are estimated to remain in the wild in Asia, the only region of the world where they exist. About 100 years ago, there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild. The five existing tiger subspecies—the Amur, Bengal, Indochinese, South China, and Sumatran—all are critically endangered or endangered throughout their ranges. The Caspian tiger of southwest Asia, the Bali tiger and the Javan tiger all became extinct in the last 50 years of the 20th century.

Today, most wild tigers live in India; smaller populations exist in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand and Viet Nam. Tigers have become extinct in at least 10 other countries. At an International Tiger Symposium held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in April 2007, experts from around the world reported that tiger populations remain in decline nearly everywhere.

A Neverending Battle Wildlife officers in countries where tigers live fight a daily battle against poachers.

Recently in Nepal, a wildlife smuggler was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Nepalese Rupees (US$ 1,591)—the maximum fine allowed for a wildlife crime in that country—after being caught in 2005 with five tiger skins, 36 leopard skins, 238 otter skins, and 123 kilograms of tiger bones.

The seizure, the largest of its kind ever made in Nepal, occurred thanks to the hard work and cooperation of two non-governmental organizations—Wildlife Conservation Nepal and the Wildlife Trust of India—and the wildlife authorities at Langtang National Park, Nepal, where the smuggler and his loot were found.

India, home to most of the world’s wild tigers, recorded 130 tigers poached between 1999 and 2004 (as compared to 82 known natural deaths), according to the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

China Drives Demand Illegal markets in China drive most tiger poaching and illegal trade. To its credit, China has taken many steps to stem the problem—including—in 1993, the establishment of a ban on the import, export, sale, purchase, transport, carrying and mailing of tiger bone and tiger products. Also in 1993, China’s Ministry of Health annulled the national medicine standard on using tiger bone in prepared Chinese medicine, and the use of tiger bone in external remedies. China has banned all production and sale of Chinese medicine containing tiger bone and increased legal penalties for smuggling tiger parts.

However, China’s commitment to ending tiger trade is wavering. At the June 2007 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), China presented a document that stated that the trade ban had not worked as demonstrated by the fact that wild tiger populations were still in decline.
China further stated that the ban "has seriously impacted not only the Chinese traditional culture but also the medicinal treatment and health care of the Chinese people, in particular those in poverty." They argued that tigers should be treated like crocodiles: farmed for their bones and skin.

Indeed, even while banning the tiger trade, China simultaneously allowed tiger breeding farms to start up and flourish. According to China’s 2007 report, there are 5,000 tigers on farms in China with an annual production of 800 animals.

Tiger Farms Not a Solution
Tigers on these farms are kept in small pens with no enrichment, typical of many types of commercial farm animal production facilities. In addition to being raised for slaughter (although the farms cannot legally sell the tiger parts, they stockpile them for the future), the tigers kept on the farms are used in a variety of ways, including for public entertainment. Visitors to the farms can purchase live prey to feed the tigers who, because they have been taken away from their mothers at such a young age and have grown up in an unnatural environment, have not been taught how to effectively kill prey animals.

The public, including children, cheer while the prey animals are wounded but not killed by the tigers. The prey animals, writing in pain, are taken away by farm workers. Young cubs are declawed; defanged adults are used as photo props.

Removing Ban Could Be Disastrous
If China were to remove its domestic tiger trade ban in order to allow the use of tiger parts from farmed tigers, all the country's efforts to date would be undermined. Instead of dampening the demand for tiger parts, this would only increase it, driving poaching. It would not be possible for tiger farms to meet the demand for tiger parts, so more wild tigers would be poached to meet it.

It is well known that people who use tiger parts for medicinal purposes prefer wild over farmed tigers. Open markets for tiger products in China would provide a cover for even more illegal trade than is currently occurring. Importantly, the traditional medicine industry members have stated that they neither need nor want tiger bone, and it is not necessary for human health.

In response to China’s report, the 2007 CITES meeting agreed that “Parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.”

The way to stop tiger poaching is to stop demand. The way to stop demand is to ban trade and effectively enforce the ban; and educate the public.
Markets for tiger parts and products must be closed once and for all if tigers are to be saved.

As Figure 1 shows, the tiger population dropped over the past 100 years by a factor of 25 - from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 to only 4000 in the 1970's. A concerted effort by wildlife protection groups in the 1970's halted their rapid demise and the global population of tigers in the wild has grown modestly to around 6000 at the turn of the century(1). Poaching continues to this day, however. When a Russian poacher can make as much from a single tiger kill as he would normally earn in 6 years, it will take more than words to halt this tragedy(2).

Figure 2 shows how the range of tigers has changed over the past 100 years. Once ranging all throughout India, southeast Asia, central Asia, and eastern China, only small pockets of natural habitat remain(3).

Tigers - Ecology & Habitat
The habitat requirement of tigers are dense vegetation, the presence of large ungulate prey, and access to water. These felines inhabit such habitats as tropical rainforests, evergreen forests, mangrove swamps, grasslands, savannas, temperate forests and and rocky areas.

Social Structure
Tigers are mostly solitary, apart from mother-offspring associations. However, individuals living close to one another may display sociable behaviour and at times, and adults may even share a kill.

Life Cycle
Tigers generally gain independence at 2 years of age and attain sexual maturity at 3-4 years for females and at 4-5 years for males. Juvenile mortality is high however: about half of all cubs do not survive more than 2 years. Tigers have been known to reach the age of 26 in the wild.

Breeding
Although tigers can mate at any time, breeding is more frequent from November to April. On average, they give birth to 2 to 3 cubs every 2 to 2.5 years, sometimes 3 to 4 years; if they all die, a second litter may be produced within 5 months. Gestation is usually 104-6 days and births occur in a cave, a rocky crevice, or in dense vegetation.

Diet
Tigers are at the top of the food chain. Hunting primarily by sight and sound, their diet consists mainly of large mammals, such as pigs, deer, antelope, buffalo, and gaur. Smaller mammals and birds are occasional prey. Tigers have also been known to eat crocodiles, fish, birds, reptiles, and even other predators like leopards and bears. Their preferred and essential food however is ungulates - hoofed animals such as deer and wild pigs.

After eating its fill, the tiger may cover the remains with grass or debris and then return for additional meals over the next several days. A tiger can consume up to 40 kg of meat at one time, but individuals in zoos are given 5-6 kg per day. An increasingly restricted feline Previous Population and Distribution Less than a hundred years ago, tigers prowled in the forests of eastern Turkey and the Caspian region of Western Asia. They were found in the Indian sub-continent, stretching to Indochina through China, Myanmar and Thailand.

Branching out south, tigers inhabited lowland rainforests of Malaysia and the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra. They were also found in the Koreas, extending up to the Russian Far East. By the 1980s, tigers on Bali and Java, and those in the Caspian region were extinct.

Current Population and Distribution
The tiger's former range has contracted and fragmented dramatically in recent decades.

Tigers now occur only in scattered populations in parts of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Sumatra, and the Russian Far East, with a small number still surviving in China and possibly a few in North Korea.

Although there are no recent and accurate estimates of the world tiger population, numbers are thought to have fallen by about 95 per cent since the turn of the twentieth century, down from perhaps 100,000 to the present estimate of around 4,000.

The South China tiger is on the verge of extinction, and the Chinese population of the Amur (Siberian) tiger is in a critical state, although 431-529 individuals are estimated to survive in the neighbouring Russian Far East.


We want Strict Protection laws globally for saving extremely endangered Tigers.

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