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China Premier warned of tiger vow ‘mockery’

EIA’s personal letter highlights gap between promises and actions

The Environmental Investigation Agency has written a personal letter to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to warn him that significant failings within a key state department in China are making a mockery of his pledge to “vigorously combat poaching, trade and smuggling of tiger products”.

At last November’s Global Tiger Forum in St Petersburg, five leaders of Tiger Range Countries – including Wen Jiabao – talked of the vital need to work together to save the tiger and end the trade in tiger body parts and derivatives, vowing to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022.

But at a series of meetings in New Delhi in late March, widely viewed as the first opportunity to monitor actual progress behind the promises, a senior member of China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA) revealed a quite staggering level of complacency, raising serious doubts about the depth of the country’s commitment:

• China admitted it relies heavily on information provided by NGOs to monitor the illegal trade in tiger skin, bone and derivatives, instead of proactively generating intelligence on the trade itself;

• The delegate responsible for law enforcement claimed to be unaware of any seizures, arrests or prosecutions resulting from formal inspections of tiger farms and markets between August and December 2010, further implying a poor grasp of intelligence on the trade;

• China appears to have gone ahead with a 2007 scheme to register, label and sell skins of ‘legal origin’, including those of farmed tigers, despite earlier statements claiming they would not re-open domestic trade in tigers parts.

In her letter to Wen Jiabao, Debbie Banks, EIA Head of Tiger Campaign, warns the Prime Minister that a lack of urgency and conflicting policies are gravely undermining China’s efforts and urges him to hand responsibility for investigating tiger and other wildlife trade to a dedicated full-time unit of police investigators, and to work directly with the SFA to improve its response and engagement in enforcing wildlife crime and the illegal tiger trade in all regions of China.

She is particularly concerned that pushing ahead with the 2007 skin registration scheme implies that tiger and leopard skins from ‘legal origins’, including those from captive-bred tigers, can be registered, labelled and sold – effectively re-opening the trade in tiger products at a time when the rest of the world is trying to end it.

In the letter, Banks tell the Prime Minister: “EIA believes that any market for tiger products from captive tigers would endanger the wild tiger and would work against the policy you articulated in St Petersburg, at which you declared every country should vigorously combat the trade in tiger parts.

“The policies of the SFA also appear to undermine China’s commitments under CITES Decision 14.69 which states that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives.”

Banks added that the time is long overdue for Wen Jiabao to send a single and definitive message to the Chinese public and tiger farmers, confirming a policy of zero tolerance regarding the illegal trade in tiger parts and forbidding all trade in all parts of tigers, including those from farmed tigers.

Interviews are available on request: please contact Alasdair Cameron, at
or telephone 020 7354 7960.


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

2. The EIA report Enforcement not Extinction: Zero Tolerance on Tiger Trade outlines EIA’s recommendations for urgent actions to reverse the tiger’s decline

3. EIA has written to China seeking clarification over the 2007 skin registration scheme and raised questions about it from the floor at UN meetings, but China has failed to respond.

4. The International Tiger Forum in St Petersburg resulted in the adoption of the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP)

5. The meeting in Delhi was the first to review implementation of the GTRP. Each Tiger Range Country (TRC) provided a report on their recent completed actions and their ‘to do’ list to December 2011. China’s official list included reference to completing a series of inspections of farms and markets in August to December 2010, and to the skin labelling system.