Trafficking figures bode ill for tigers

At risk: Currently, there are around 3,900 tigers left in the wild, the bulk of them in India.   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

India, with the world’s largest wild tiger population, topped in the trafficking of tigers and tiger body parts over 19 years since 2000, a new TRAFFIC analysis from Geneva has revealed.

The report titled ‘Skin and Bones Unresolved: An Analysis of Tiger Seizures from 2000-2018’ was the fourth in a series on tiger trade by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The analysis said that there has been no respite for the “heavily-hunted” tiger with an estimated average of more than 120 individuals seized each year from 2000 to 2018.

Apart from tiger skin and bones, live tigers are also traded illegally in a number of cases.

Overall, the analysis estimated that 2,359 tigers and tiger body parts were seized during the period across 32 countries and territories globally, resulting from 1,142 seizure incidents. Around 95% of these seizures were recorded in countries that are home to tigers.

“India, with the world’s largest wild tiger population, remains the country with the highest overall number of seizures and the most tigers seized. It accounted for 40.5% of total incidents (463) and 26.5% of tigers seized (626),” the analysis said.

Outside the tiger’s range, 56 seizures were recorded, of which Taiwan and Mexico reported the largest number of tigers seized throughout the 19-year period. There were 39 seizures in Taiwan and 13 in Mexico.

Skin and bone

“The analysis reinforces that tiger skins remain the single most frequently seized tiger part. Almost 58 whole tiger skin equivalents were seized on an average every year. Every analysis brings more bad news for tigers. The poaching and illegal trade in tigers has been a decades-long unresolved problem that has piled the pressure on wild tiger strongholds,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Director for Southeast Asia and an author of the report.

“This pernicious trafficking, evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, whole animals — both dead and alive — and bones, is a testament to the ongoing demand for tiger parts. The time for talking is over — words must be turned into action to prevent further tiger loss,” she said.

Analysis of the more recent years of the dataset turned up a few surprising findings, including a four-fold increase in the yearly average seizure incidents in Indonesia between 2015 and 2018. Even now, Indonesia continues to see large tiger parts seizures, including one earlier this month of at least a dozen tiger skins in an East Javan workshop that made traditional dance masks.

The authors said a significant number of tigers from captive sources were seized during this period and that it underpinned the recurrent threat regarding the leakage of captive tigers into the illegal market.

The study found over half (58%) of the tigers seized in Thailand and 30% in Vietnam were identified as originating from captive breeding facilities, with the largest proportion coming from a single seizure of 187 tigers in Thailand in 2016. Overall, a minimum of at least 366 tigers from known or suspected captive sources were seized over the assessed period.

The study was launched to coincide with discussions around the trade in tigers and other big cat species at the 18th meeting of governments that are parties to the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. Currently, there are around 3,900 tigers left in the wild, the bulk of them in India.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 5:49:11 AM |

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