THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The United States today played a major role in helping protect the world’s declining populations of wild tiger from poaching, rallying support for an international resolution calling on China to continue its ban on domestic trade in tigers and tiger parts.
The resolution, passed by the 171 nations represented at the 14th Conference of Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), stated that countries with intensive commercial tiger breeding facilities should restrict the captive population of tigers to the level needed to support conservation of wild tigers.
More importantly, the resolution strongly opposed commercial “tiger farms” that raise tigers to harvest their parts for use in traditional medicines, wines, and other products. “Tigers should not be bred for their parts and derivatives,” the resolution stated.
The United States and many other countries – including all the other tiger range states – have been concerned that China might lift its domestic ban and allow the sale of parts from tiger farms.
“We have been extremely concerned that China would go down this road, leading to an increase in tiger poaching,” said Todd Willens, the head of the U.S. delegation to the conference. “Today’s vote is a strong statement by the world’s scientific and conservation community that tiger farming poses a serious risk to wild tigers and lifting the ban on any domestic trade in tiger parts would harm wild populations by creating a market in tiger parts where a market should not exist.”
“I applaud tiger range states including Bhutan, Russia, India, and Nepal for taking a strong stand on behalf of tiger conservation,” Willens said.
The resolution also reaffirmed a previous CITES’ resolution stating that tiger range nations should promote the use of alternative substances in traditional medicine. Experts in traditional Chinese medicine spoke in favor of the resolution, emphasizing that tiger parts are no longer needed.
China has banned domestic trade in tiger and tiger parts since the early 1990s and has said it has no plans to lift the ban. However, the country has said that it would consider lifting the ban if it would be beneficial to the species in the wild. China currently has an estimated 60 tiger farms that hold 5,000 tigers.
“The mere possibility that China might consider lifting the ban led to today’s opposition by the global community,” Willens said.
CITES is an international convention signed by 171 nations that is designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.