Fewer than 4,000 wild tigers remain in Asia but the pressing threat from wildlife traffickers continues as they profit from demand for tiger parts and derivatives. Illegal trade also takes a terrible toll on other species such as leopards, lions and jaguars, either in their own right or so they can be passed off as tiger. Though our investigations, we have already successfully broken into and exposed the illegal trade on several occasions.
There are fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left in Asia, a 96 per cent decline over the past 100 years. Transnational organised criminal networks continue to profit from demand for tiger parts and derivatives, primarily in China. Financing poaching and fuelling corruption, these networks persist in the face of enforcement efforts in some of the source and transit countries because of a lack of intelligence-led enforcement and cooperation from China.
This unchecked demand also drives trade in leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, African lions and jaguars, with teeth, claws and bones of other big cats being passed off as tiger.
The difference we’ve made
We have been at the forefront of investigating, documenting and exposing the trade in tiger skins, bones, teeth, claws and products. Our hard-hitting reports, videos and interactive maps have raised awareness of the ‘who, what, when, where, how and why’ of the tiger trade, providing compelling arguments for stronger legislation and more effective enforcement.
Our advocacy work has contributed to changes in laws in the USA and Japan to ban products labelled or advertised as containing tiger. At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), we have secured greater protection for tigers and other Asian big cats under new resolutions and decisions.
With our partner, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), we documented how organised criminal networks traffic tigers and other wildlife across the Himalayas into China. An appeal from His Holiness the Dalai Lama resulted in the decline in use of skins to decorate traditional costumes in Tibet.
Our report on the open illegal trade in tiger and other wildlife at the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, was a catalyst for the diplomatic community, other NGOS and intergovernmental organisations in Laos to reinvigorate their dialogue with the Government on wildlife crime. Laos is facing CITES trade suspensions unless it makes significant progress.
While the use of tiger and other Asian big cat skins to decorate traditional costumes declined among Tibetans 10years ago, the use of skins as luxury home décor among China’s military, political and business elite has continued. Bones, teeth and claws are also very muchin demand and trafficked by the same criminal networks dealing in other big cats, pangolin scales, bear gall bladder, ivory, rhino horn, musk deer pods and red sandalwood from south Asia into China.
We are investigating how far the tentacles of the Chinese networks extend and who the key figures within them are. Information generated from these investigations will be shared with national and intergovernmental law enforcement bodies to guide their own operations in the region and also with WPSI as it investigates the source end of the trade chain.
Our campaigners will advocate greater investment by governments and donors in intelligence-led enforcement, with the objective of strengthening prosecutions and seizing the assets of criminals.
With partners in the Mekong, we will investigate the trade where body parts of wild tigers merge with the market for farmed tigers and African lions.
The CITES meeting and the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in October 2018 will be key moments in testing the commitment of China’s and Vietnam’s leadership in particular to eliminate the market for tigers and other big cats. This starts with a clear declaration of zero tolerance towards trade in any part or derivative of all tigers and big cats, from the wild or captivity.
We will also use these meetings to call on China and Vietnam to destroy stockpiles of big cat parts and products, and for donors to increase investment in big cat demand-reduction campaigns.
How you can help
Our investigators can’t keep returning to the same region. We need your help to build our team so we can continue to investigate those behind the trade in tigers and other big cats and learn how they are adapting to enforcement and market demand.
Header image © Elliott Neep