New York, NY – Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, commends the government of China for taking bold steps to immediately halt the consumption and trade of wild animals in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, and encourages the adoption of even broader, permanent protections for wildlife and humans.
Beyond the benefits of this ban for human health, the decision acknowledges an extraordinary public outcry in China, echoed by voices around the world, against eating wild animals, using wildlife products and breeding wild animals on farms. Multiplying this rare cultural shift with strengthened protections for wild animals under the country’s Wildlife Protection Law would be a significant step to reduce poaching of tigers and other threatened and endangered species.
Panthera Chief Scientist and Senior Tiger Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich, stated, “The magnitude of this moment and the potential for our planet that China now holds in its grasp cannot be emphasized enough. Under the gaze of the globe, China has the opportunity to close legislative loopholes that still allow the exploitation of threatened wildlife. Ensuring this week’s ban is followed up with strong enforcement focused on trade and use of threatened species categorized under China’s ‘special state protection’, CITES, and the IUCN Red List, including wild and captive-bred big cats targeted and traded for medicinal purposes and luxury goods, would serve as an extraordinary step forward for wildlife and people.”
Goodrich continued, “Doing so in China and with its citizens working in over 60 countries through the government’s Belt and Road Initiative, would greatly reduce pressure on the world’s largest big cat, while protecting many other threatened species, as well as humans. Coupled with strong enforcement focused on domestic and international wildlife trade, this would almost certainly serve as the turning point for the future of our planet’s biodiversity.”
We have long known that the legal wildlife trade in China, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, perpetuates the illegal trade that is devastating tigers in most of Asia and threatening leopards, lions and jaguars. Within southeast Asia, strong ties have been demonstrated between captive tiger farming facilities and the illegal trade of tiger parts, including Thailand’s notorious Tiger Temple. In fact, a 2016 TRAFFIC report analyzing tiger seizures from 2000-2015 found that an estimated minimum 17% or 297 tigers confiscated from illegal trafficking operations originated from captive facilities.
Panthera’s Tigers Forever program operates in six tiger range states to mitigate the most pressing threats facing the species, with a focus on training and outfitting law enforcement patrols, utilizing informant networks, and monitoring tigers and their prey to disrupt illegal wildlife trafficking and combat poaching syndicates.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org