Tigers face extinction as Chinese trade ban falters


Tigers could be driven to extinction if plans by China to lift a ban on trading in them are allowed to go ahead, wildlife campaigners have warned.

The Chinese government is considering whether to reopen the domestic market for tigers and their body parts, according to reports.

Tiger numbers are at a record low, with fewer than 5,000 remaining in the wild. They are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which means that they or their body parts cannot be sold internationally. China also imposed a ban on domestic trade in 1993, in an attempt to stop the poaching of tigers for use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) products.

But with soaring demand for TCM both at home and abroad, the Chinese government is looking at whether to allow the skeletons of tigers that die in captivity to be used for medicinal purposes.

There are an estimated 3,000 captive-bred tigers in China. So-called "tiger farms" breed the animals and sell them on to zoos and pet shops.

But campaigners are warning that if even this limited market is allowed to resume, illegal poaching will soar as demand rises.

Callum Rankine, head of the species programme at the conservation organisation WWF, said: "Make no bones about it - this could be the end for tigers. Poachers living near the world's last populations of tigers may kill them to supply illegal markets that are likely to develop alongside any new, legal ones."

Tiger bone is a highly prized ingredient in TCM and is said - without much supporting evidence - to be particularly effective for treating rheumatism, headaches and stiffness.

Nearly every other part of the tiger also has a prescribed benefit. The eyeballs are used to treat epilepsy, the tail for various skin diseases, whiskers for toothache and the bile is said to soothe convulsions in children.

Pills made from the penis of the tiger are also believed by millions to make men more virile, with concoctions purporting to contain the genitals selling for thousands of pounds on the black market.

Campaigners said the news that China was considering relaxing the ban had come as a shock. Steven Broad, executive director of the wildlife monitoring group Traffic International, said: "If this goes ahead, it will undo all the excellent work that the Chinese government has done over the past 12 years.

"China has led by example in the past, by imposing harsh penalties on wildlife- trade criminals and through determined enforcement measures. To go back on all this, especially when there are alternatives for use in traditional medicines, just doesn't make sense."

The charities believe that the government is bowing to pressure from tiger farmers and TCM practitioners to lift the ban on the trade in skeletons.

Observers believe that many of the farmers are breeding far more tigers than zoos need because they believe the ban will be lifted and the lucrative trade in their body parts will resume. One tiger park in Guilin, Guangxi province, claims to be capable of raising up to 1,000 tigers.

Wildlife groups are now hoping to provoke an international outcry in an attempt to prevent the lifting of the ban.

The world has lost 90 per cent of its tiger population over the past century. Three sub-species - Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers - have become extinct in the past 70 years, with just five others remaining.Last month, customs officers in Taiwan seized 140kg of bone thought to have come from poached Sumatran tigers, the rarest of the remaining sub-species. There are now just 500 Sumatran tigers left.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style

Between the 25-27th of July, Earls Courts’ gloomy interior was doused in shades of bubblegum and parma violets as it played host to Hyper Japan, the venue’s annual celebration of anime, art, Kawaii street fashion and everything that encompasses the term J-culture. Bursting with Japanese pop culture and infused with Asian street food Hyper Japan is an invigorating culture shock that brings cosplayers, creatives and gamers like myself from across the globe.

Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star