The continued demand for the skins, bones and body parts of tigers and other Asian big cats threatens to wipe them out faster than any other threat.
All international trade in wild tigers is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), but the effectiveness of CITES depends entirely on the commitment and will of the countries that have tigers and those that consume them to take effective action.
EIA’s early investigations examined the availability of parts and derivatives of tigers used in traditional Chinese medicine despite China’s 1993 ban on the use of tiger bone. This included our work that contributed to changes in regulations in the USA and Japan to make it illegal to sell products that were labelled or advertised as containing tiger, simplifying enforcement.
More recently, EIA has partnered with the Wildlife Protection Society of India to investigate and document the trans-Himalayan trade in the skins of tigers, other Asian big cats and otters. The trade spiralled out of control at the turn of this century with evidence of ever more organised transnational criminal networks emerging between India, Nepal, Tibet and China.
Apparently driven by demand for use among the Tibetan community to decorate costumes, an appeal from His Holiness the Dalai Lama led to the abandonment of this practice and widespread burning of the skins. Unfortunately, traders have continued to smuggle skins and bones from tigers in India and Nepal for sale to wealthy Chinese in business, government and the military as luxury rugs or, in the case of bone, for use in traditional medicine.
EIA exposes these enforcement gaps, particularly in China, and informs decision-makers of the urgent reforms needed to combat the trade. You can read our investigation reports for CITES and other international forums here
Keep up to date with our news and actions on the tiger trade at the EIA blog.