The Convention on Illegal Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is central to global efforts to tackle overexploitation. WWF will be at its 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) working to secure the best result for the world’s threatened species, including our ‘Big Five at CITES’ – elephants, rhinos, sharks, pangolins and tigers.
By 2010 poaching and habitat loss had reduced the wild tiger population to as few as 3,200 individuals, with over half in India. The latest estimates show an increase to around 3,900. This positive trend is principally the result of improvements in India, Nepal and Russia, while the remaining populations in Southeast Asia are still a major cause of concern.
In the meantime, tiger farming in China and parts of Southeast Asia is increasingly a complicating factor, with tigers and tiger parts leaking into illegal trade, stimulating demand and undermining enforcement efforts.
There are already comprehensive rules on tigers, including a global ban on commercial trade and regulations restricting domestic markets. However, there is evidence that some countries are not doing everything they can to comply with these rules.
CITES needs to agree a rigorous, formal process to examine countries’ performance in urgently implementing the needed measures as agreed by CITES. This process should include a particular focus on the role of tiger farms in trade.
Tiger farming is part of the problem, not the solution. Farmed tiger parts can never compete economically with illegally sourced wild tiger products, especially given the weak enforcement in many countries, and the fact that consumers prefer the wild product. So current CITES rules which state that tigers should not be bred in captivity for commercial trade in their parts should not be relaxed.