India remains tiger poaching hub as south-east Asian nations form new market: Report
Four out of every 10 tigers killed or poached globally since 2000 were in India with an aim to smuggle the big cat’s body parts to south-east Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, according to a report released on Tuesday at a global convention on protecting flora and fauna in Geneva.
In all, 2,300 tigers have been killed and illegally trafficked since the turn of the century, the report said. Around 40.5% of these were from India, said the report of conservation group, Traffic, looking at 19-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe. The group campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts.
Traffic said, skins were the single most frequently seized tiger parts, with an average of 58 whole tiger skins seized each year.
The report said in the long term (between 2000 and 2018) there is a “moderate” increase in the number of seizures in the 32 tiger range countries (TRC) but since 2015, there is a decreasing trend in these countries, indicating that enforcement and tiger conservation efforts were working.
Anup Nayak, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, said the findings aligned with the recent data released by the authority on tiger estimation showing that poaching cases were on the decline on account of better conservation and protection.
“There is a definite decline in tigers killed for poaching in the mainland even though some reserves on the borders with our neighbouring countries are still a matter of concern,” he said. “We have started efforts to jointly conserve and protect tigers with our neighbouring countries.”
The tiger population had globally dramatically fallen in the last century with 100,000 estimated in 1900 and when it fell to a record low of 3,200 globally in 2010. Since then, population numbers have moved upwards with the tiger range countries having 3,900 tigers with India contributing 2,967 of them, according to the report of the All India Tiger Estimation released in July.
Report author Kanitha Krishnasamy, who heads Traffic’s Southeast Asia operations, said the numbers were deeply concerning as it shows that every year on an average more than 120 illegally trafficked tiger body parts were seized -- which amounts to over two each week -- since year 2000.
“It looks like we are losing this fight,” news agency AFP quoted her as saying.
The report shows that Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are coming up as new markets for smuggled tiger body parts, in addition to China, where tiger bones are an important ingredient for making traditional Chinese medicines.
Around one-fourth of the total seizures were from these four countries even though they account for less than five percent of the total tigers in the world..
“While India has consistently been the most active country, executing over 40% of the total global seizures in the 19-year period, in recent years, Indonesia has experienced the most noticeable almost seven-fold increase from 4% in 2012 to an all-time high of 27% in 2016 of all tiger seizures recorded globally,” the report said, adding that since 2016 a “sizeable increase” in tiger body part seizures were reported from Vietnam and Bangladesh.
“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,” Krishnasamy said. She was hinting at the Traffic analysis that a conservative estimate of 5.5% of the reported wild tiger population was captured for trafficking in 2016.
The report blamed the tiger farms in China for the continuous flow of tiger body parts in the international wildlife smuggling market. There are around 5,000 tigers in these farms and their body parts are preserved in wine, which is served to people as a delicacy.
More than half of tiger seizures in Thailand and a third of those in Vietnam over the past two decades were identified as coming from captive breeding facilities, Traffic said.
Global wildlife NGOs have claimed that tiger wildlife body parts from these farms were fuelling the illegal tiger trade globally and has sought international monitoring of these farms at the meeting of Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species (CITES). The issue will again be discussed at the Geneva meeting of CITES, which started on Monday.
“The time for talking is over: words must be turned into action to prevent further tiger loss,” she said in a statement.