22 November 2010

Tiger trade likened to drugs

Ahead of this week's Tiger Summit, a new report challenges the ability of the proposed Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) to save the wild tiger.


Ahead of this week's Tiger Summit, a new report challenges the ability of the proposed Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) to save the wild tiger.

According to the study’s authors, Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes and Kirsten Conrad: “The GTRP ignores the fact that a seventeen-year ban on trade in tiger parts has failed to sufficiently reduce tiger poaching. In fact, attempting to enforce this ban may be part of the problem rather than the solution.”

Demand for tiger parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines, persists and may even be increasing with rising levels of Asian affluence.

Similar to illicit drug demand

“Many consumers are aware of the tiger’s plight and that it is illegal to buy their parts, yet they continue to do so, even as prices increase. In this respect, the demand for tiger parts is similar to the demand for illicit drugs”, explained the authors.

The GTRP has set aside a budget for law enforcement and demand reduction, but there is no guarantee that this approach will succeed. The authors reveal:

“Past efforts to eliminate persistent illegal trade like this have failed. Despite huge financial resources and enforcement efforts, the trade in illicit products such as cocaine and marijuana continues to boom. Sophisticated crime networks behind such illegal trade are always one step ahead of the law.”

The authors are especially critical of suggestions to reduce the numbers of tigers in “tiger farms”, captive breeding centres in China and elsewhere.

“If farmed tiger products are being sold, this is probably helping wild tigers, not hurting them. Preventing such sales means that any demand for tiger parts must be met with wild tigers, and organized crime will have a monopoly on supply. Instead, we should focus directly on anti-poaching efforts to protect wild tigers in their natural habitat.”

The Tiger Summit takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia this week. 

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