In yet another shocking example of the large-scale illegal wildlife trade throughout Asia, the frozen carcass of a baby tiger was found in the trunk of a taxi cab on its way to a buyer in Hanoi.
It was reported that two men were arrested for attempting to transport the baby tiger carcass – along with the bones of at least two tigers – and that the “case showed the possibility of larger-scale tiger trafficking in the country.” The baby tiger was between four and five months old.
Driven by the demand in long-standing illegal wildlife markets throughout Asia, the tiger population in Vietnam is nearly gone. It is estimated that fewer than 200 tigers remain in the Truong Son Mountain Range.
Tigers are often hunted by locals living in poverty in Truong Son areas. In major cities, where illegal wildlife trade is active, tiger parts, meat, skin, and bones command high prices.
Illegal trade in tiger parts in China and other Asian markets driving wild tigers to extinction
Tigers have been hunted to the point where only 4,000 of the big cats remain in the wild.
The illegal market in China for tigers is so robust that groups in China are lobbying the authorities in favor of “tiger farming” – commercial breeding of tigers for slaughter and trade in tiger parts. Recently, however, the World Bank debunked the notion of any positive conservation benefits to tiger farming, and has called for the phasing out of existing tiger farms in China.
Tigers are also disappearing from the very havens which were supposed to keep them safe, such as Panna Tiger Reserve, which has no tigers left:
… according to an independent report by India’s central forest ministry, it’s pretty obvious what has killed the tigers: poachers. The report claimed that “warning bells” have been going off for almost a decade, and park officials simply failed to address them.
One might wonder if the rampant poaching is a deliberate attempt to exterminate all wild tigers, so that the illegal trade can be “controlled” by those who would benefit from commercial tiger farming.
Are current conservation methods working?
I recognize that the business of endangered species conservation is a complex international behemoth, comprised of layer upon layer of stakeholders, management, administration, and a multitude of financial “considerations.” In other words, bold, attention-getting, “boat-rocking” activism is rarely implemented by large conservation organizations.
But one thing is crystal clear: The decline in wild tiger population suggests that current methods for protecting tigers in their natural habitats are not working.
Local people have learned it is more profitable to kill a tiger than protect a tiger. And efforts to arrest poachers are often ineffective and shortsighted:
Even when arrests occur, most involve poor small-time poachers, while the big traffickers escape undetected. Major criminal groups have the funds to develop advanced trafficking techniques and to avoid capture of their leaders.
The call for a new, innovative approach to wild tiger conservation must be made – or you and I will bear the responsibility of allowing the extinction of tigers in the wild.
Image source: istock.com