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As world focuses on tigers, other Asian big cats are killed

LONDON: With the 2nd Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in Bhutan preparing to discuss the plight of snow leopards today (October 23), the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has warned that it and Asia’s other big cats are in danger of being forgotten.

“The tiger is very much a symbol of the rampant demand and trade threatening the survival of other Asian big cats,” said Debbie Banks, Head of EIA’s Tiger Campaign. “But we know that for every tiger taken, about six leopards are being killed.”

The Conference is being held under the auspices of the Global Tiger Initiative in the mountain Kingdom of Bhutan; it opened on Sunday and runs until Wednesday.

With the key focus on wild tigers, EIA is concerned that leopards are not getting proper consideration, even as they continue to be hammered by poachers.

EIA has produced Briefing on Snow Leopards in Illegal Trade – Asia’s Forgotten Cats for Conference delegates.

Recent analysis shows that since 2000, at least 4,000 Asian big cat skins have entered into the trans-Himalayan trade, with evidence suggesting the majority are destined for China. Nearly 3,400 were leopard skins.

In addition to the seizures, EIA’s undercover investigators have documented the sale of skins and other body parts of hundreds more Asian big cats throughout western and central China.

Snow leopards are under serious threat, with a global population estimated to be fewer than 6,000. EIA’s new briefing reveals investigators have recorded 100 snow leopard skins in China since 2005, and reports a further 151 seized across the animals’ range.

“The skins seized and those uncovered by our investigators are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Banks. “Many more are getting through.”

Tiger, leopard and snow leopard skins are in demand in China for use in taxidermy, luxury home décor and clothing, with a secondary market in their bones for medicinal uses.

Asian big cat Range States (countries in which these animals are naturally found) are required to report to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) on the status of the illegal trade in these species and efforts to prevent it. To date no country has reported on the status of the snow leopard, and only two have reported on the leopard.

“Tigers remain at serious risk because of demand,” added Banks. “So too do the other Asian big cats. At the very least, leopard and snow leopard Range States need to be reporting what actions they are taking to protect these wonderful animals from the illegal trade in their body parts and derivatives.”

EIA’s Briefing on Snow Leopards in Illegal Trade – Asia’s Forgotten Cats is here.


Interviews are available on request: please contact Debbie Banks via [email protected] or telephone 020 7354 7960.



1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses.

2. The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits international trade in specimens of Appendix I Asian big cats – tiger, leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard and Asiatic lion.

3. Trans-Himalayan trade is specifically trade between India, Nepal and China.

4. A Customs general rule is that seized contraband represents 10 per cent of the volume of contraband moving.

5. The Global Tiger Recovery Programme is coordinated by the Global Tiger Initiative, administered by the World Bank; website at


Environmental Investigation Agency
62-63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY
Tel: +44 207 354 7960