Published 13 June 2007


CITES: Breeding tigers for trade soundly rejected—WWF/TRAFFIC

The Hague, The Netherlands, 13 June 2007—Raising captive tigers for trade in tiger parts was rejected by CITES member countries today and China was urged to phase out its large-scale commercial tiger farms, a major victory for wild tiger conservation. 

Raising captive tigers for trade in tiger parts was rejected by CITES member countries today © Save the Tiger Fund

Three countries with wild tigers—India, Nepal and Bhutan—were joined by the United States in calling on China to phase out the country’s privately run “tiger farms” that house nearly 5,000 big cats and are pushing the Chinese government to allow legal trade in tiger parts. With leadership from these countries, the 171 member countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted a strong tiger trade decision by consensus.

“India spoke out strongly and courageously for their wild tigers, along with Bhutan and Nepal,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme. “China has said that it will not lift its ban without listening to scientific opinion from around the world. The world spoke today and urged China not to reopen any trade in tiger parts and to increase protection for tigers in the wild.”  

Investors in massive, captive tiger breeding centers in China have been pressuring the Chinese government to lift its successful 14-year-old ban on trade in tiger parts so they can legally sell products like tiger bone wine and tiger meat. These facilities have acknowledged stockpiling tiger carcasses in the hopes that the trade ban will be lifted.

“A legal market in China for products made from farmed tigers would increase demand and allow criminals to ‘launder’ products made from tigers poached from the wild,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC International. “Tiger numbers in the wild are so precarious that we cannot risk any actions that could jeopardize them further.”

WWF and TRAFFIC, along with a coalition of other organizations working on tigers, have offered guidance and technical support to China on shutting down its tiger farms and stepping up law enforcement efforts to stamp out illegal trade of tiger parts.  

In the cover story of this month’s BioScience journal, tiger experts from WWF and other conservation groups warn that if tigers are to survive, governments must stop all trade in tiger products from wild and captive-bred sources, as well as ramp up efforts to conserve the species and their habitats. The paper, The Fate of Wild Tigers, describes the wild tiger's population decline as "catastrophic" and urges international cooperation to ensure the animal's continued existence in the wild.

Habitat loss and intense poaching of tigers and their prey, combined with inadequate government efforts to maintain tiger populations, have resulted in a dramatic reduction in tiger numbers. These big cats now occupy just 7 percent of their historical range, according to the BioScience paper. And the possibility that China could reopen trade in parts harvested from farmed tigers represents a new threat, the authors say.