Myanmar border markets act as deadly trade gateway for Tigers
Friday, November 19, 2010 at 9:00
TRAFFIC in In Asia, Mammals - tigers, Report launch

Hundreds of Tiger and leopard parts were observed during nearly a decade of investigations in Myanmar and Thailand Click photo to enlarge © Adam Oswell / TRAFFIC Southeast Asia

in Japanese

Bangkok, Thailand, 19th November 2010—Black markets along Myanmar, Thailand and China’s shared borders play a crucial role facilitating the deadly illicit trade in Tigers and other endangered species say TRAFFIC and WWF in the lead up to the International Tiger Forum taking place next week in St Petersburg, Russia.

The Big Cat Trade in Myanmar and Thailand (PDF, 1.5 MB) report documents black market sales of large wild felines. Live big cats, including endangered Tigers and a rare Asiatic Lion were observed in trade. Hundreds of Tiger and leopard parts, representing over 400 individual animals, were also observed during nearly a decade of investigations in Myanmar and Thailand.

The report is accompanied by a short documentary called Closing a Deadly Gateway that illustrates the illegal trade described in the report. The film shows interviews with poachers and alarming footage of butchered tigers.

“With as few as 3,200 wild Tigers worldwide, the ongoing large-scale trade documented in this report cannot be taken lightly. Illegal trade poses the most immediate and dire threat to the survival of Tigers. Moreover, it puts all Asia’s big felines at serious risk,” noted TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Regional Director, Dr William Schaedla.

“Wildlife laws in Myanmar and Thailand clearly prohibit trafficking in Tigers and other big cats. We urge authorities to bring the full weight of the law to bear upon traffickers.”

A trader in the Myanmar town of Tachilek, on the Thai border, openly selling Clouded Leopard skins and other endangered wildlife products Click photo to enlarge © Adam Oswell / TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Provincial markets and retail outlets at the Myanmar towns of Mong La, near the China border and Tachilek, on the Thai border, were found to play a pivotal role in the large scale distribution of big cat parts including whole skins, bones, paws, penises and teeth. The products are transported by road and sea into China and Thailand or sold to Chinese nationals who cross the Myanmar border to gamble and consume exotic wildlife.

The report comes as Tiger range country governments, including representatives from Myanmar, China, and Thailand, are expected to meet in St. Petersburg, Russia hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“A critical part of saving wild Tigers must be to shut down the illegal trade in Tiger parts,” said Michael Baltzer, head of WWF’s Tigers Alive initiative. “With all the Tiger range countries convening this month in Russia for a groundbreaking summit on the future of the Tiger, illegal trade such as this must stay front and centre in the negotiations.”

The report found a flourishing illegal trade in Tigers and other wildlife through Myanmar that thrives despite national and international laws Click image to enlarge Findings point to a flourishing illegal trade in Tigers and other wildlife through Myanmar that thrives despite national and international laws. The majority of this trade occurs in non-government controlled areas between northern Myanmar and southern China. The fact that these areas maintain their own governments not linked to Myanmar’s capital poses difficulty co-ordinating effective enforcement action.

“There is an urgent need to step up efforts if the region is to save its declining Tiger populations. We need to enhance information gathering and ensure government and non-government agencies share information in transparent and timely ways from the local level to the regional scale,” said Peter Cutter, Co-ordinator for WWF Greater Mekong Region’s Tiger conservation in Thailand.

Tiger populations in the Greater Mekong—an area that includes Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam—have plummeted from an estimated 1,200 during the last Year of the Tiger in 1998 to about 350 today.

“Alarmingly, the landscape between Myanmar and Thailand holds the greatest hope for Tiger population recovery in this region,” said Cutter, “but this can only happen if there are unprecedented and co-ordinated regional efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade.”

Trans-border wildlife trade dynamics in Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR and China Click image to enlarge © TRAFFIC The TRAFFIC/WWF report found whole animals as well as parts and derivatives are sourced within Myanmar and from Lao PDR, Thailand, Malaysia, India and Indonesia; then trafficked across national borders into non-government controlled areas in Myanmar. Wildlife traders in Myanmar’s non-government controlled areas reported that high profit margins, corrupt authorities and little fear of recrimination enables them to trade openly in prohibited wildlife. While local communities are sometimes involved, they are rarely major drivers of the illegal activities.

TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Director, William Schaedla, summarized the problem. “The area is struggling with governance and Tigers are easy money for everyone from mafia types to anti-government opposition groups. Some of these players should be countered with direct enforcement actions. Others might be receptive to work through regional agreements and international bodies in order to address the problem.”

For further information please contact:

Elizabeth John, Senior Communications Officer, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, T: +603 7880 3940, +60122079790 Email:

Nicole Frisina, Communications Manager, WWF Greater Mekong Programme, Mobile in Thailand +66837878859. Email:

To download the report visit:

High-res photos from the report visit:

B-roll footage of Tigers and Tiger trade as well as high resolution footage from Closing the Deadly Gateway are available on request.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of IUCN and WWF. Across Asia, TRAFFIC works to support government agencies in law enforcement networking to combat illegal wildlife trade. Technical assistance across the enforcement continuum, including facilitation of inter-governmental dialogues, engaging the judicial sector, and working with WWF to improve linkages from national level agencies to field-based rangers, is provided on demand to member countries of the ASEAN and South Asia Wildlife Enforcement networks, as well as to China and its immediate neighbours.

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