Agenda item 52: Asian big cats

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
Tiger and other skins confiscated at Heathrow Airport, UK.
© WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
(with additional relevance to aspects of Agenda items:
  • 20.1 Resolutions relating to Appendix I species
  • 25 Enforcement matters
  • 48 Relationship between ex situ production and in situ conservation: report of the Standing Committee
  • 63 Trade in traditional medicines)

While Document 52 is the only CoP14 document that specifically relates to tigers and other Asian big cats, the other documents referred to above are highly relevant as well. Only concerted action by the Parties and all concerned will effectively address the trade threat to tigers and other Asian big cats — and only concerted action to stop all trade, international and domestic, will save the tiger.

Summary: Document 52 – Asian big cats
Document 52 has been submitted by the Secretariat describing actions and progress through CITES to combat the illicit trade in parts and products of Asian big cats. Reports on the implementation of Res. Conf. 12.5 were submitted by China, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, the first six of which are attached in annexes. Without all the reports, the Secretariat found it difficult to offer suggestions regarding general or country-specific measures, and therefore the document contains no strong recommendations.

WWF recommendations:

China 
The Government of China should:

  • Maintain its comprehensive domestic tiger trade ban policy. Lifting or easing China’s domestic ban of tiger trade, even for captive-bred tigers, would be a great leap backward for tiger conservation by re-igniting demand and making policing of trade in wild specimens extremely difficult. Such action would undermine and devalue the brave efforts of front-line law enforcement officials across the wild tiger’s range. It would undermine the conservation efforts of other tiger range States, including efforts to enhance the livelihoods of the rural poor through tiger-based ecotourism.
  • Reject petitions to weaken this important policy.
  • Continue and strengthen law enforcement efforts against the illegal skin trade in the western parts of the country.
  • Establish a moratorium on tiger breeding and any future breeding programmes should be international and coordinated in nature. Stocks of tiger carcasses and their parts should be destroyed, and financial support for tiger conservation in China should be directed at habitat conservation and protection measures.
  • Invest more financial and human resources and effort into protecting wild tigers and their prey in the Amur/Heilongjiang region of northeast China.
  • Deliver evidence of intelligence-led enforcement to combat the transnational organized crime networks controlling trade in tiger skin and bones; intelligence sharing with wildlife-law enforcement officials in India and Nepal; and, prosecutions of criminals who in trade tiger products.
  • Heighten awareness of its current ban on tiger trade, issuing a clear public statement that consumption of tiger parts for Chinese medicine or tonics under any circumstances is not permitted. Consumption of other big cats should also be deterred.

India
Of note in India’s report is reference to bilateral discussions with neighbouring States, including the Indo-Chinese Protocol on tiger conservation, an MOU with Nepal on tiger/wildlife conservation, and a draft protocol with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Recommendations:

  • India has had more than adequate time to make its Wildlife Crime Bureau operational. This should be put into full operation through a multi-agency tiger enforcement unit as a matter of priority (as promised since 2000).
  • The Government of India should deliver evidence of intelligence-led enforcement to combat the transnational organized crime networks controlling the trade in tiger skin and bones; intelligence sharing with wildlife-law enforcement officials in China and Nepal; and prosecutions of criminals who in trade tiger products.
  • India should also document greater investment (of financial and human resources and effort) in anti-poaching measures to protect tigers and their prey.

Regional

  • Cross-border collaboration is imperative to stop the illicit ABC trade, especially between China and India - the largest tiger consumer and range States, respectively. However bilateral meetings between these countries are not, in and of themselves, “law enforcement.” More needs to be done through capacity building workshops, support for intelligence-led enforcement, and sharing of information across borders.
  • Both China and India should demonstrate high-level political commitment (involving relevant ministries) to new regional enforcement mechanisms (e.g. border liaison offices or networks akin to the ASEAN Wildlife Law Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • Parties should review the CITES Secretariat document on Asian big cats, the outcome of the Secretariat’s verification mission to China and relevant documentation, reports by TRAFFIC and others mentioned herein, and should determine whether China and India have demonstrated a commitment to and an investment in intelligence-led enforcement, as recognized by standard police and customs performance indicators.

Further recommendations for action on tigers:
WWF commends the good work of range States that have implemented concerted actions to stop the trade in tiger parts and products, both through enforcement and consumer awareness. Range States are doing tremendous work with front-line law enforcement, anti-poaching, and habitat protection. Much more is needed to protect tiger habitat - including legal protections, management of protected areas, and prevention of habitat conversion in critical tiger landscapes. But all of that will be moot unless the trade is brought firmly under control, demand in consumer countries is stopped, and illegal trade is halted. Bold, positive action is required now to save tigers and other Asian big cats from extinction in the wild. This requires coordinated efforts within and between range States and consumer countries.

WWF makes the following recommendations for achieving this:

  1. We urge the CoP to endorse a high-level range States meeting, for all tiger range States to develop an international tiger conservation strategy to establish common goals for tiger conservation.
       a. WWF shares the concerns of the Secretariat and others that conservation efforts have not thus far secured a future for tigers and agree that political will at the highest level of governments is required to address this crisis.
       b. While a high-level meeting could indeed stimulate increased government commitment, it will not in itself be sufficient to address this emergency and to deliver the conservation action required. Legislative gaps, implementation difficulties, illegal trade, domestic markets, enforcement weaknesses, lack of capacity, and other barriers to effective tiger conservation must be adequately identified, possible solutions assessed, and progress in the implementation of those solutions monitored.
  2. We applaud the efforts of governments who are implementing concerted efforts to stop the tiger parts trade - both in terms of enforcement and consumer awareness. We recommend the consideration of strict measures, consistent with prior Standing Committee and CoP actions, against States which do not demonstrate verified actions to stop tiger trade.
  3. We recommend further commitment to tiger and Asian big cat conservation by the Parties, through a strengthening of the provisions of CITES Resolutions and Decisions, including possible sanctions against non-implementing countries.
  4. We believe that China, as a consumer country, has excellent legislation, both for the implementation of CITES and in banning domestic trade in tiger parts and products. We recommend that the CoP formally endorse China’s bold domestic measures, and call upon China not to repeal them.
  5. TRAFFIC’s recent report and other data clearly demonstrate that intensive breeding in tiger farms threatens wild tigers. We recommend that the CoP endorse the phase-out of tiger farms and destruction of stockpiles. WWF offers its assistance to China and other countries with tiger farms in such efforts.

For WWF's full position, including the rationale and further information, please see page 37 in WWF Positions CITES COP14. Download PDF (3.6 MB | 48 pages)

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