International wildlife trade body fails to take action on tiger crisis
Instead of agreeing to proposals for international action, Parties to the Standing Committee of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) decided to put off discussion of the tiger crisis again until next June, when the full CITES body convenes in The Netherlands. Although the Parties did decide to send a technical enforcement mission from the CITES Secretariat to China to look into enforcement of this trade, it is not enough, the environmental organizations added.
“We are disappointed by the lack of leadership displayed here this week and the lack of commitment to conservation by the member nations,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.
“The biggest problem facing tigers today is illegal trade between India and China, yet neither country showed the willingness to step up efforts to tackle this urgent problem. How bad does it need to get for tigers before governments take the necessary action?”
According to WWF, tigers are one of the world's most threatened species, with only 6,000 or so remaining in the wild, mostly in isolated pockets spread across increasingly fragmented forests stretching from India to south-eastern China and from the Russian Far East to Sumatra, Indonesia.
Tiger populations have long suffered from poaching. But an increasingly affluent middle class in China has increased demand for tiger skins, used mainly as trophies and clothing, and body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine. India has lost an unknown number of tigers to poachers in recent years to fuel this demand across the border with China, with some national tiger reserves in India now devoid of tigers altogether. A report of the CITES Secretariat to the meeting said efforts to save the tiger thus far “have failed”.
“A suggestion was on the table at the Standing Committee to convene a high-level law enforcement meeting with all of the tiger range states and to come up with a process to measure how well recommendations made by CITES Parties in the late 1990s were being implemented,” added Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and IUCN-The World Conservation Union.
“Instead, the delegates decided to do nothing for nine more months. The world’s tigers can’t wait another nine months.”
• The international trade in wildlife is big business, estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than 350 million plant and animal specimens every year. Unregulated international trade can push threatened and endangered species over the brink, especially when combined with habitat loss and other pressures.
• CITES was adopted in 1973 to address the threat posed by just one of these activities: unsustainable international trade. With some 166 Parties, CITES is one of the world's most important agreements on species conservation and the non-detrimental use of wildlife. CITES provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices. Animals and plants listed under Appendix I are excluded from international commercial trade except in very special circumstances. Appendix I contains almost 600 animal species and a little more than 300 plant species, including all the great apes; various big cats such as cheetahs, the snow leopard and the tiger.
• The CITES Standing Committee provides policy guidance to the CITES Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat's budget. Beyond these key roles, it coordinates and oversees, where required, the work of other committees and working groups; carries out tasks given to it by the Conference of the Parties; and drafts resolutions for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.
For further information:
Jan Vertefeuille, Communications Manager
WWF Tiger and Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) Programmes
Tel: +1 202 861 8362
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +39 06 84 497 212