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Investigators Find Tiger Skin Trade Changed but Thriving Saturday, September 30, 2006

September 28, 2006
Alert#41 Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking (CATT)

While many of China’s Tibetans may have forsaken their tiger-trimmed robes recently, plenty of Chinese consumers seem to have stepped up to take their place to fuel a thriving illicit trade in tiger skins.

This disturbing conclusion was announced yesterday by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), when they released a new report entitled Skinning the Cat: Crime and Politics of the Big Cat Skin Trade.

“The governments of China and India are not going to like it,” says WPSI’s Belinda Wright, “but we just stated the facts -- and the consequences of taking no action. We have lost a critical year since the first exposure of the trade in Tibet, and the tiger just cannot afford to loose another.”

With camera rolling, Wright and EIA's Debbie Banks toured China’s Tibetan region in the summer of 2005. Their images of Tibetans swathed in elaborate robes decorated with large amounts of tiger and leopard skin, dancing and posing at annual horse festivals, caught world attention.

In response, Chinese authorities promised to raise awareness among Tibetans of laws prohibiting tiger trade, then take action to enforce those laws. At the same time, Tibetan religious leaders encouraged their followers to stop wearing skins from endangered wildlife.

Nonetheless, the poaching and smuggling of India’s tigers did not let up. So EIA and WPSI investigators returned to China’s Tibetan area recently to see for themselves whether China’s appetite for tiger skins had waned.

What they found again caught world attention, as evidenced by the more than 143 related news stories that ran worldwide over the 24 hours since Wednesday's EIA/WPSI press conference in Delhi.

In summary, the groups found fewer Tibetans wearing tiger-trimmed robes but more Chinese buying tiger skins as VIP gifts or home décor.

“One trader stated that 80 percent of his customers were mainland Chinese, while others said local government officials and army officers are among their Chinese customers,” the report says. “Another trader* recently bought 60 pieces of tiger skin as gifts for his staff.”

Unfortunately, the investigators found little evidence of law enforcement. “There was no sign of enforcement,” Wright said today in a radio interview. “Nothing. Zero.”

Banks was incredulous. “If a small team from non-profit organizations can spend ten days in China and find 11 traders with tiger and leopard skins, think what Chinese authorities could do if they wanted to,” she told CATT.

The report does not spare India for its shortcomings in policing tiger poaching and trafficking. What the document prescribes to stop this trade, which poses "the most significant threat to the continued existence of the tiger in the wild," is immediate, targeted police action on the part of China, Nepal and India -- the main supply, transit and consuming countries. "If the world wants to save wild tigers, then we have to move beyond the dialogue, accept that organised [sic] crime networks currently have the upper hand and immediately implement more effective enforcement measures."

Political will and law enforcement. The only things that will stop the killing. Two things in short supply.

The new EIA/WPSI report and a related press release and fact sheet can be found on www.eia-international.org and www.wpsi-india.org Look for China and India’s unchecked illegal trade in tiger skins and bones to be highlighted at the Fifty-Fourth Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) next week in Switzerland.
Thank you for your interest in stopping tiger trade,


Judy Mills Director Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking (CATT): An organized response to an organized crime

CATT is a global partnership initiative of Save The Tiger Fund. CATT Alert delivers news related to tiger trade. If you know others who would like to receive CATT Alert, please ask them to subscribe at http://www.savethetigerfund.org/CATT. To view previous issues of CATT Alert, change your email address, unsubscribe or learn more about CATT, please also visit http://www.savethetigerfund.org/CATT. Correspondence for CATT should be addressed to CATT@nfwf.org

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