years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Thank you for inviting international NGOs to share their views on intensive captive breeding of tigers. The International Tiger Coalition (ITC), made up of 40 NGOs from the environmental, zoo, animal welfare, traditional Chinese medicine, legal and responsible-tourism communities, represents millions of members around the world and works closely with government authorities. We applaud you for taking global opinion into account in this matter that is of utmost importance to the survival of the world’s favorite wild animal.
As you may know, poaching of tigers is driving decreases in wild tiger populations throughout their range, along with poaching of their prey and degradation of their habitat. In the near term, inadequate law enforcement and residual demand for tiger products pose the greatest threats to the survival of wild tigers. Even /talk/ of reopening trade in farmed (or captive-bred) tiger products has helped sustain residual demand, prompting investors to stockpile tiger skins and bones and causing police in some Asian countries to take tiger trafficking less seriously.
We support the decision, taken by consensus at the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), that tiger farms (and other intensive tiger breeding operations) must be phased out immediately because their mere /existence/ sustains consumer demand and drives poaching of wild tigers. World Bank economists concur as well. “Having carefully weighed the economic arguments, we urge the CITES community to uphold the ban on tiger products and for all countries to continue to ban the domestic trade of tiger parts and derivatives,” the World Bank stated at the July 2009 meeting of the CITES Standing Committee.
We believe that China deserves unstinting credit for its ban on domestic tiger trade, instituted in 1993, as it is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why wild tigers continue to survive in viable numbers today. We also believe that sustaining China’s domestic ban is more important than ever, given the increased buying power of China’s consumers. Furthermore, we are gratified that this view is supported by traditional Chinese medicine specialists worldwide and a majority of Chinese people (please see the attached /Attitudes Toward Consumption and Conservation of Tigers in China/.)
Demand reduction campaigns /do/ work, yet they have not been given adequate support to do so. The ITC applauds the SFA’s commitment at last week’s Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop to launch multi-media public awareness campaigns within China and in cooperation with other tiger range countries to discourage the use of tiger parts and products.
Intelligence-led law enforcement also/ /works and has proven successful in some parts of the tiger's range, but it has not been given adequate support to work in many tiger range countries. In Kathmandu, the CITES Secretariat’s chief enforcement officer chastised some tiger range countries for failing to gather information on tiger crime as well as NGOs do. That is why the ITC also applauds the SFA for agreeing in Kathmandu to increase law enforcement cooperation with INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the CITES Secretariat and fellow tiger range countries to stem the illegal trade in tiger parts and products.
The cultural significance of the tiger is evidenced by the manner in which it features so often in China's visual art and literature. Wild tigers are emblematic of all of nature’s abundance (species and ecosystems) now endangered by degradation and overexploitation. In India, it is said that, “When wild tigers disappear, forest fall,” robbing people of livelihoods, food, water and health security. The 2010 Year of the Tiger offers unprecedented opportunities for policymakers around the world to take action to bring back wild tigers. If they do not take immediate and bold new steps, there may be no wild tigers left when the Year of the Tiger is celebrated again in 2022.
A majority of tiger range countries have made clear, in CITES fora and again in Kathmandu last week, that they wish to see tiger farming and other intensive captive breeding of tigers phased out and tiger trade from all sources stopped. Furthermore, polls show that wild tigers are indeed the world’s favorite wild animal. Domesticating this magnificent global symbol of wild nature would undoubtedly bring world condemnation. Furthermore, reopening domestic trade in products from farmed tigers is widely viewed as the “last nail in the coffin” for wild tigers. Surely no nation would want to be seen as putting the interest of a handful of businessmen above the interests of saving wild tigers from extinction.
China already has made many sacrifices to save wild tigers, which deserves to be a matter of national pride. The ITC stands ready to assist and applaud China in taking world leadership in 2010 to save the world’s favorite wild animal by phasing out tiger farming, stopping illegal tiger trade with intelligence-led law enforcement and by raising global awareness that tiger parts and products from /any/ source should no longer be bought, sold or used.
Thank you once again for this opportunity to share with you our collective views.
The International Tiger Coalition
Moderator, International Tiger Coalition