Massive Tiger bone seizure in Taiwan highlights continued poaching threat
© Kaohsiung Customs, Taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan, 8th August 2005… A massive seizure of Tiger bone in Taiwan last month has clearly shown that there is little evidence of a major reduction in poaching of Tigers in the wild and signals the urgent need for strong enforcement action by both Tiger range States and potential consumer countries. In the largest ever single seizure of Tiger bone in Taiwan, and one of the largest ever in Asia since 2000, Kaohsiung Customs authorities in Taiwan on July 4th confiscated over 140 kg of Tiger bones, including 24 skulls, in a shipment from Jakarta, Indonesia. The contraband was hidden in a container of deer antlers being exported to Taiwan for use in traditional medicines. Also seized were 400 kg of pangolin scales and five pieces of carved ivory weighing 1kg.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibits the international trade in parts and derivatives from Tigers, elephants and pangolins and all three are totally protected species in Indonesia. However, a TRAFFIC Southeast Asia report released last year found that despite full protection, poaching of and trade in Indonesia’s Tigers continues unabated. According to TRAFFIC Southeast Asia regional programme officer Chris Shepherd, the report estimated that at least 50 Tigers were killed or removed from the wild in Indonesia per year between 1998 and 2002. “This single shipment intercepted in Taiwan last month represents nearly half that annual figure,” Shepherd said. “Assuming that all these tiger parts were sourced from Sumatra, Indonesia is in real danger of losing its last remaining Tiger sub-species – the Sumatran Tiger – if the widespread illegal trade in Tiger parts is not stopped.”
Indonesia, once home to three sub-species of Tiger – Javan, Balinese and Sumatran – now only has between 400 and 500 Tigers left in the wild in Sumatra. The Java and Bali Tigers have both gone extinct due largely to illegal killing for trade, and loss of their habitat.
During TRAFFIC’s research in Sumatra, traders indicated that they illegally sold Tiger parts to Taiwan, as well as to Korea, China, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. “We would like to commend the efforts of the Taiwan Custom’s authorities in intercepting this illegal shipment and we encourage other potential consumer countries to show similar vigilance and strong enforcement action,” Shepherd said. “Despite earlier indications of the trade in some markets shifting to Tiger skins and other products beside bone, this seizure clearly illustrates that tiger parts in traditional Asian medicine continues to be a threat to wild tigers.”
TRAFFIC also urged Indonesia to significantly boost their enforcement efforts to ensure that even more tigers are not poached for the bone trade. “Increased and improved enforcement is critical to saving Sumatran Tigers,”, Shepherd stressed. “Action should be taken against the markets, trade hubs and retail outlets, especially in northern Sumatra. More specialised anti-poaching units also need to be urgently established. Traders of illegal wildlife and wildlife parts and derivatives should also be punished to the full extent of the law.”
Reports in recent months regarding the decline in Tiger populations in some protected areas in India have forcefully re-focused the attention of the international conservation community on the poaching of Tigers, especially in South Asia. However, this seizure has firmly put the global spotlight on Southeast Asia as well. The seizure had also taken place just days after a meeting of the CITES Standing Committee, which requested that all range States of Asian Big Cats report next year on their work in combating illicit trade in specimens of Asian Big Cat species and their implementation of CITES recommendations addressing legislation and enforcement, anti-poaching efforts, public education and outreach, and other domestic controls. “Conservation efforts must address the global picture if the trade in Tigers is to be stopped, and if ultimately Tigers are to survive in the wild,” Shepherd said.
The seizure also clearly indicates that illegal trade of numerous protected species from Southeast Asia to Taiwan and other East Asian destinations continues on a large scale. Pangolins, one of the most heavily traded species in Asia, are also protected in Indonesia, and throughout their range in Asia. However, demand for their scales and meat in East Asia continues to drive a market that is threatening remaining wild populations.
For more information, please contact:
Joyce Wu, TRAFFIC East Asia (Taiwan), tel: + 886 2 2362 9787, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Shepherd/James Compton, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia (Malaysia), tel: +603 78803940, email: email@example.com
Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC International (UK), tel.+44 1223-277427, email: firstname.lastname@example.org