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‘Tigers still killed for sale in China’

Killing of Asian big cats for sale in China continues unabated even though the number of body parts available in Chinese shops has gone done dramatically since 2005, reports Chetan Chauhan.
By Chetan Chauhan | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 18, 2008 02:18 AM IST

Killing of Asian big cats for sale in China continues unabated even though the number of body parts available in Chinese shops has gone done dramatically since 2005, an international investigation has revealed.

Among the body parts found for sale in Linxia of Gansu Province of China was a tiger skin originating from India, the investigation by Environment Investigation Agency (EIA), an international NGO, has found.

The investigation disclosed at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva on Thursday said that 13 snow leopard and leopard skins and one tiger skin were found to be on sale in one week of investigations in Linxia. Also found were five pieces of leopard skin trim and a piece of tiger skin trim.

The number has gone down dramatically since 2005 when EIA found 60 snow leopard skins and 163 leopard skins on sale in Linxia. In subsequent years following international pressure on China to curb the trade and a call by Dalai Lama to Tibetans to shun animal skins, the number of skins found had declined.

This year the investigators found that the sale continues unabated with the traders getting wiser by not selling the illegal body parts to foreigners and getting tip-off from Chinese forest bureau officials about any suspected raid.

To avoid detection, the Asian big cat skins were being sold only to Chinese customers, who don’t complain to forest bureau officials, the EIA told CITES. Also, the skins are not on public display, as it used to be earlier. “They are available only on demand,” the EIA investigation report said. The EIA also said that the same old five traders, with whom illegal skins were found in the past few years, continue to run the trade. The skins offered for sale in 2006 and 2008 were different, indicating that they are getting fresh supply of prohibited animal body parts.

In view of the findings, the EIA has asked CITES to determine future benchmarks for countries dealing with Asian big cats to determine enforcement effectiveness in future. Countries like India should be asked to provide details of pro-active strategies been developed to apply intelligence-led enforcement to combat the trans-national criminal networks, the EIA said.

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