Roar for Tigers

Chinese Health Nuts ‘Biggest Threat’ To India’s Bengal Tigers

Chinese Health Nuts ‘Biggest Threat’ To India’s Bengal Tigers

Jan 7, 2014

Traditional medicine in China has Indian poachers slaughtering Bengal Tigers in greater numbers and shipping their body parts up north for cold hard cash. Although the tiger population in India is actually on the rise, there is an alarming increase in poaching of the country’s big cats.  Recent data released last week show that India lost approximately 48 tigers last year to poachers, up from 32 in 2012, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India. “Until the demand is addressed and stopped, tigers will go on being killed by poachers,” Belinda Wright, head of the Wildlife Protection Society, told the South China Morning Post on Monday. “This issue of demand is something that can only be tackled by China,” Wright reportedly said. Interpol says the trade in illegal wildlife products is worth some $12 billion a year. India is home to the world’s largest tiger population, making it a major source market for the illegal wild animal trade. Most of the demand for wildlife comes from outside of India, with China being the go-to spot for tiger body parts such as their paws.  Despite increased awareness and vigilance, The Society’s Wildlife Crime Database shows a continuing increase in wildlife poaching and smuggling in India. “The prices the poachers are fetching are so high that, despite India’s attempts to enforce the law, they are prepared to take risks. They are ruthless and sophisticated. We have to reduce demand,” Tito Joseph, the Society’s program manager, told the South China Morning Post. The wildlife authorities appear to be in a losing battle with the poachers who are organised and well-equipped. They can easily pay off forest guards or policemen if they get into trouble, the South China Morning Post reported. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Bengal tiger is considered an endangered species. Before the international ban on tiger trade in 1993, tiger populations were being decimated by poachers. However, even with the ban, the illegal demand for tigers as status symbols, decorative items, and Chinese medicinal “cures” has increased demand for tigers, leading to what the WWF calls a  ”new poaching crisis” in India. Poaching driven by the international illegal wildlife trade is the largest immediate threat to the remaining tiger population, the WWF says. India has roughly 1,706 tigers, according to the last official estimate taken in 2011. The number was 1,411 in the 2008 census. Work on the next tiger census — the world’s biggest — started in December.  Research spans 500,000 square kilometers of subtropical forest where 90% of India’s tigers live. Over 2,000 experts work with forest officials to count the tiger population. Worldwide, the WWF estimates there to be around 2,500 Bengal tigers. Tiger parts are sold at Chinese medicine shops in China, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chinatowns in North America and Europe. According to Eugene Linden of Time magazine: “tiger bone remedies” are “so ingrained in these cultures that it is not certain their government could control the trade.”

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