Asian Officials Extend Lifeline For Wild Tigers (mentions use of snow leopard skins towards the end of the article)

Katie Hamann | Denpasar, Bali 14 July 2010: VOA News

Countries Work on Agreement to Save Tigers

Wild tigers have been offered a lifeline by countries where they still roam. The countries have agreed to work together to double the tiger population within 12 years. Officials from 13 countries gathered in Bali agreed to increase law enforcement to protect the tigers and preserve their habitats across Asia.

A Sumatran tiger roars in protest at his captors from the Indonesian forestry department. The animal had rampaged through villages and palm oil plantations in search of food, killing four farmers. After months in captivity, the cat was released into a Sumatran national park.

In an ongoing battle for territory between humans and wild tigers, tigers are the biggest losers. Rapidly shrinking habitats and poaching are decimating their populations.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates the number of wild tigers has declined by 40 percent in the past decade, to about 3,200 animals with only 1,000 actively breeding females.

In an effort to arrest this slide into extinction, leaders from 13 tiger nations gathered this week in Bali to draft a declaration on conservation, as part of the Global Tiger Recovery Program. The program is led by the World Bank and a coalition of international non-profit organizations. The centerpiece of the nations’ commitment is an ambitious plan to double the number of wild tigers by 2022.

Underscoring the immensity of this challenge, several countries said the goal is unrealistic.

Indian delegation leader S. P. Yadav says his country will focus on stabilizing tiger numbers in existing conservation areas.

“We are the largest, tiger-range country,” said S. P. Yadav. “We have around 1,500 tigers in the wild; so almost 50 percent of tigers are in India. We have identified 39 tiger reserves, covering an area of around 32,000 square kilometers. Within this number of tigers and the area, we are facing the problem of tiger-man conflict, and in some areas, it is a very serious issue. So there is very little scope in further enhancing the area to accommodate more tigers in our country.”

The Wildlife Conservation Societies’ vice president for conservation and science, John Robinson, says is it possible to double the number of tigers as planned.

“Within protected areas we could increase overall tiger numbers probably by 50 to 60 percent, and the tigers within those protected areas would still not reach the carrying capacity of that habitat,” said John Robinson. “And that gives an ability to bring these numbers back rather dramatically. Across broader tiger landscapes, if protection was put into place, if we could control the illegal hunting, we could bring back very significant tiger numbers”

Conservationists agree poaching presents the greatest threat to tiger populations. Poaching and the international trade in tigers and tiger parts is increasing across the region.

John Sellers heads the enforcement office of the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

“I think if you had looked at this area 10 to 15 years ago, you would have found that a lot of the demand was taking place amongst Asian ethnic communities in either North America and Europe,” said John Sellers. “That really has disappeared now. Instead, I think the market is now amongst the wealthy in parts of Asia, particularly China, where they have the money to pay for the genuine article. There are undoubtedly practitioners with the contacts to acquire this. I remember speaking to a practitioner in Thailand a few years ago who told me he had traveled to the border with Myanmar in order to purchase genuine tiger bones.”

The sale of tiger parts is prohibited in most tiger countries and the penalty for poachers in China is death. But law enforcement within countries and across national boundaries remains weak and disorganized.

In recent years new markets for tiger products have emerged. Some animal parks in China openly sell tiger bone wine, just one product spurring the establishment of tiger-breeding farms.

John Sellers says in some parts of China and Tibet a revival of old traditions is driving the market for tiger pelts.

“From what I understand in Tibet, it was traditional for warriors who had been brave in battle to be presented with a small piece of animal skin, such as a tiger or leopard – a snow leopard – just as the way a soldier would be in the West might be presented with a medal,” he said. “And so what had been a traditional practice using small parts of skin, then just grew into this situation where they began to build huge panels of tiger and leopard skin into these chubas, the traditional jackets that the local communities wear there.”

Early estimates suggest the cost of implementing the global tiger project will be more than $350 million, and more if the target of doubling tiger numbers within 12 years is to be met.

World Bank Global Tiger Initiative Director, Keshav Varma, says tiger nations have some capacity for funding tiger conservation, but wealthy nations will have to contribute.

“This sector is extremely poorly resourced,” said Keshav Varma. “It does not have money for minimum sustainable management. So we need more resources. And I think this is again an opportunity for global leaders to really understand the value of ecosystems.”

Included in the draft declaration was a commitment from tiger countries to collaborate and coordinate efforts to protect tigers and their habitats across national boundaries and to improve enforcement of anti-poaching and trafficking laws.

The Bali meeting’s draft declaration will be presented to government leaders for ratification at a September summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Tiger skin trade in China exposed (snow leopard skins noted)

Tiger skin trade in China exposed By Jody Bourton
Earth News reporter

An undercover investigation has revealed the continued trade in tiger skins in China. Covert filming by the Environment Investigation Agency shows traders selling skins of tigers and other rare animals such as snow leopards. The skins are sold as luxury items and are used for clothes and home decor. The campaigning group has published its investigation a few days before an international summit on big cat conservation in Kathmandu, Nepal. Buying and selling big cat skins and body parts is illegal in China. People are buying them for prestige, skins are very expensive and tend to cost around 20,000 US dollars each
Alasdair Cameron Environmental Investigation Agency
However, a team from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), based in London, UK and Washington DC, US says its investigations reveal the trade in big cats still occurs in many parts of the country, including Tibet. Between 25 July and 19 August 2009 the EIA carried out investigations in markets in five cities in western China. Skin sale In just 21 days the team was offered four full tiger skins, 12 leopard skins, 11 snow leopard skins and two clouded leopard skins as well as associated bones and teeth from the species. “It’s really quite significant,” says EIA spokesperson Alasdair Cameron. “What’s interesting is the market has changed. Previously the market was for skins amongst the Tibetan community, that market has largely collapsed and what we’re seeing now is skins bought for decoration and taxidermy amongst Chinese businesspeople,” he says. “People are buying them for prestige, skins are very expensive and tend to cost around 20,000 US dollars each,” Mr Cameron explains. “We’re also being told skins are being used for non-financial bribery within China, so the demand is increasing outside of the Tibetan areas.” The EIA says the animals are being smuggled into China from various places including Tibet, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Covert operation The team captured the illegal trade on film using a hidden camera while they enquired about animal skins on sale. What surprised the team was how easy it was to find and purchase the endangered animal products. “There is some law enforcement in China, in a few regions, but there are whole swathes of the country where this trade is allowed to carry on with almost no fear of detection,” Mr Cameron says. “Some of the places we have been to, skins are openly displayed in shop windows while police cars drive past.” Debbie Banks, lead campaigner of the EIA, believes not is enough is being done by the Chinese authorities to combat the trade. “If China can put a man into space, they can do more to save the wild tiger,” she says. Tiger meet On the 27 October a summit is being held in Kathmandu, Nepal to discuss how best to save wild tigers from extinction. The Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop will bring together tiger experts and conservation organisations from around the world to further efforts to protect the animal, especially running up to the Chinese calendar’s year of the tiger in 2010. However, Mr Cameron has mixed feelings about the forthcoming year of the tiger. “We’re hoping to use the year of the tiger as a way to highlight the threats faced by the animal but traders in China are actually saying that next year is going to be great because people will want to get a piece of the tiger in the year of the tiger.” “There could actually be a spike in demand.” Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/10/23 12:51:09 GMT


Camping in Kabul, April 2009

Photographs & Text By Michael Obert
Translated by Jason Nickels


An excerpt from the article that mentions availability of snow leopard fur coats:


Chicken Street, in downtown Kabul, is a string of souvenir shops. Indeed, the only thing that you cannot buy on Chicken Street is chickens, which are available a little further along, on Flower Street. Shop windows boast everything from blown glass from Herat and embroidery from Uzbekistan, to coats made from the fur of the last of the snow leopards, semi-precious lapis lazuli, Central Asian antiques, kilim and Persian rugs. Some of the rugs feature the face of George W Bush wailing bitterly; others depict the World Trade Center in flames as an F-16 squadron flies over an outline of Afghanistan.