New York, NY – In response to an overwhelming international outcry over the reversal of a 25-year ban on the use of tiger and rhinoceros parts for medical research and healing, the government of China temporarily reinstated this ban in November 2018. Just months later, however, new reports have emerged pointing to profit-hungry tiger breeders and farms as the forces responsible for continuing to pressure the Chinese government to legalize the trade in tiger and rhino parts.
Panthera CEO and President, Dr. Frédéric Launay, stated, “Any watering down of China’s decades-old legislation barring the legal trade in these wildlife parts will serve as a death sentence for wild tigers, rhinos and other precious wildlife species, and make a mockery of China’s recent improvements to its track record on wildlife conservation.”
Launay continued, “As the country deliberates its next move, strength and influence lie with the army of conservation organizations, heads of state, corporate leaders, and the international community overall who must stand together now to deliver the unmistakable message that the world will not allow China to hasten the extinction of these extraordinary wild animals. Let this serve as a rallying cry for all to urge the government of China to permanently, and without future question, end the trade in tiger and rhino parts.”
Particularly given difficulties distinguishing between lawfully and illegally sourced wildlife parts, the legal trade in endangered species is well known as a thoroughfare and cover for the illicit wildlife trade. As recently as October, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) pinpointed 36 Chinese tiger farms that are thought to be involved in illegal trade.
Panthera Chief Scientist and Tiger Program Senior Director, Dr. John Goodrich, stated, “The ultimate survival of some of our planet’s most coveted wild animals depends in large part on whether China follows through on its commitments to international conventions or bows to pressure from captive tiger breeders and powerful poaching syndicates fueled by greed.”
Goodrich continued, “Time for the tiger is running out. Making the conscious decision now, once and for all, to prioritize the survival of tigers and rhinos would make China a hero and conservation champion celebrated for centuries to come.”
As wild animal organs are considered more valuable than their captive counterparts’, conservationists fear a lift of China’s trade ban would trigger an immediate lift in poaching floodgates around the globe – intensifying black market demand, serving as a call to arms for poaching syndicates, and placing disproportionate pressure on nations already cash-strapped to protect their wildlife.
A stain on the country’s environmental reputation, the controversy surrounding this legislation sends mixed signals on China’s conservation commitments. President Xi Jinping has promised to transform the country into an “ecological civilization,” and until late has made good on that pledge by establishing a reserve for Amur tigers and leopards, halting the nation’s ivory trade, and increasing illegal wildlife contraband seizures.
Today, only 3,900 wild tigers remain in Asia. Panthera’s Tigers Forever program operates in six tiger range states to mitigate the species’ most pressing threats, 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.