Monday, January 4, 2010

Now China calls for Tiger Protection!

China wakes up, calls for protection of tigers

India’s newfound partnership with China on environment issues has yielded results in the area of tiger protection as well. In what could be seen as a new year’s gift for the Indian tiger, China’s State Forestry Administration has issued a directive calling for the protection of tigers, especially the need to step up action against illegal trade in tiger parts and products.

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Poaching and smuggling of tigers fuelled by China’s incessant demand for tiger parts has been a thorny issue between India and China. This vital conservation issue dominated Jairam Ramesh’s first visit to Beijing as minister of state for environment in August last year. At that time, however, the talks between India and China to save the endangered animal failed to make much progress. Now, it would seem that the Indian government’s efforts have made some impact.

The Chinese order is aimed at protecting tigers in the wild, enforcing laws against illegal trading of tiger parts & products and better management and monitoring of tiger farms. Though silence on the issue of closing down the tiger farms could continue to be a cause of concern for India’s effort at conserving tigers.

The order has called for improved protection of tigers and their prey in the wild. This will have to be done through efforts in “research, monitoring, anti-poaching and alleviating human-tiger conflict”. China has some 20-odd tigers in the wild.

It has also mandated a crackdown on illegal smuggling and trade of tiger parts and products. The order has specifically asked local forestry bureaus to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to increase monitoring and undertake enforcement measures against tiger trade.

Officially, domestic trade in tiger parts is illegal in China. However, the ever-growing demand for tiger parts, which are used as aphrodisiacal drugs and to make Chinese traditional medicine, has contributed to a flourishing black market, which fuels increased poaching and smuggling of tigers out of India through the Nepal and Myanmar borders. The latest directive from the Chinese authorities seeks to address the issue by trying to curb this demand.

It calls for promoting public awareness to reduce consumption of tiger parts and a public rejection of illegal trade. It suggests encouraging and motivating the public to report wildlife crime to authorities. At the same time, those officials who repeatedly ignore public complaints about illegal trade will be held responsible.

The Chinese order has also called for increased monitoring and management of tiger captive breeding facilities. This will require creating a database that would track all tigers bred on these facilities, with special attention to tiger deaths in these farms. To prevent trade, stockpile of tiger bodies and parts should be sealed to prevent use.

Those facilities that do not have storage capabilities would be required to destroy stockpile, under the supervision of local authorities. Each tiger farm will be required to have permits and meet conditions before opening up for public viewing.

Nearly 4,000 tigers are bred in scores of these controversial tiger farms in China. While the government maintains that these farms have been developed to attract tourists, experts maintain that these farms are used to harvest tiger body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. Mr Ramesh has pushed for phasing out of tiger farms and destruction of stockpiles of tiger parts. The minister had sought an assurance from China’s minister
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