Tiger trade ban must continue: WWF

Posted on
16 May 2007

Ahead of the world’s major meeting on wildlife trade, WWF released its top ten list of species needing urgent, global, action to reduce threats from trade. These species are: Tigers, Rhinos, Elephants, Porbeagle, Spiny dogfish, Sawfish, Red and pink coral, European Eel, Great apes and Bigleaf Mahogany.

Delegates from 171 countries are expected to attend the Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), from 3-15 June in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Some of the species on WWF’s top ten priority list are among the most endangered. For example, the tiger, the elephant and the Asian rhino have required constant and urgent action over the past decades, because of ever-present, pervasive threats to their survival, including poaching and illegal trade. Others, particularly marine species, are on the list because their populations have declined massively in recent years, to supply the global market.

“CITES has been addressing the trade threat to some of these species for more than 30 years, with many successes, while others are new on the agenda,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF Global Species Programme. “For some, there are new threats, others are new on the agenda due to changing trade dynamics in the global economy, while for yet others, organized criminal elements continue to ply their trade across the globe.”

“Whatever the problem,” noted Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India, “nothing will change unless governments take trade and its impacts on conservation and local people’s livelihoods seriously.”

Speaking on the occasion, Sujoy Banerjee, Director Species Conservation Programme, WWF-India, said, “Out of the insidious threats that exist for the tiger, poaching is one of the main contributors for the decline of populations of tigers. Curbing poaching will remain an arduous task as long as there is a demand market for the skin, bones and other body parts in the international market. Lifting of the domestic ban on trade in tiger and its derivatives by the Chinese government will only serve to fuel the market for tiger parts, which is currently on the decline and this, in turn, will only encourage poaching tigers from the wild. At a time when the tigers are under tremendous threat as it is, if the ban on domestic trade in tiger parts is lifted by China, this will certainly sound the death knell on the tigers in India. "

An international coalition of 35 organizations has expressed deep concern on China’s intentions of lifting this domestic ban. In a joint statement issued today the coalition has expressed hope that the Indian Government will strongly urge the Chinese Government to keep this ban in place to secure a future for India’s tigers.

WWF’s top ten “to do” list for the world’s governments includes the following species:

In India:

Tigers: At a time when the tiger is already facing ever mounting threats of habitat loss, poaching, human-wildlife conflicts and illegal trade, the move of the Chinese government to lift the 1993 ban on domestic trade in tiger and its derivatives will only compound the problem further. At present, China has a captive population of about 4000 tigers in farms, being bred for purely economic reasons. It is estimated that poaching a wild tiger is about 250 times cheaper than the cost of raising it in captivity. As such any lifting of the ban will be an encouragement for poachers to kill tigers from the wild to cater to this new market. The government of India should take a strong stance on this issue in the interest of tiger conservation in India. Additionally, the government must set up the Wildlife Crime Bureau which should be put into full operation through a multi –agency tiger enforcement unit as a matter of priority.

Asian rhinos: Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their habitat, Asian rhino populations are now confined to a few small populations in India. An upsurge in poaching over the last few years is taking its toll even on populations that were thought to be stable. WWF calls upon the government of India to step up enforcement efforts.

Elephants: The ongoing poaching of elephants and illegal international trade in ivory is stimulated by rampant ivory sales in some countries, particularly in Africa and Asia. Despite previous CITES decisions, and valiant efforts of some countries, these markets persist. The time has come to back serious efforts to close down these illegal and unregulated ivory markets, the true driver of elephant poaching through a very strong and committed political will.


Porbeagle: Porbeagle shark is a powerful, medium-sized, highly migratory shark. There is international demand for, and trade, in its high-value meat and fins. It is also used as fertilizer. WWF calls upon governments to include the species in CITES Appendix II.

Spiny dogfish: Spiny dogfish is a slender, smaller sized white-spotted shark that grows to about one metre long and travels in schools. It is found in cool, coastal waters worldwide. Known as rock salmon, it is used in fish and chips in the UK and as a smoked meat delicacy in Germany, called Schillerlocken. WWF calls upon governments to include the species in CITES Appendix II.

Sawfish: Populations of the seven species of sawfish have drastically declined. They are traded as live animals for public aquariums, and also for their fins and meat. Their distinctive saw-like snouts are sold as souvenirs and ceremonial weapons, while other body parts are used for traditional medicines. WWF calls upon governments to include these species in CITES Appendix I.

Red and pink coral: A jewel that comes from reefs and atolls, it is the most valuable of all the precious corals. Pink coral has been fished for over 5,000 years and used for jewellery and decoration. Over-harvesting and the destruction of entire colonies by bottom trawls and dredges have led to dramatic population declines. WWF calls on governments to include all species of red and pink coral in CITES Appendix II.

European eel: The European eel comes from coastal and freshwater ecosystems throughout Europe, including Mediterranean countries. Stocks have declined dramatically over the past several decades due to overfishing and poaching. There is significant international demand for this species, both for live juvenile eels (shipped from Europe to Asia) for rearing in aquaculture and for the highly valued meat of adults. WWF calls on governments to include this species in CITES Appendix II.

Great apes: Wild populations of great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans), continue to decline drastically and are threatened by the combined effects of illegal trade in live animals (usually for pets), poaching for meat, disease and habitat disturbance, fragmentation and destruction. WWF calls on governments and CITES to stop this trade – including by adequately enforcing existing laws and imposing deterrent penalties.

Bigleaf mahogany: This highly valuable South and Central American rainforest tree species was listed in CITES Appendix II in 2002, in response to population declines and high levels of illegal logging and trade. Only one country still exports large commercial quantities, Peru, and after five years, these problems continue, and concerted action is needed.


For further information:
Sujoy Banerjee, Director, Species Conservation Programme, WWF-India
T: +91 11 4150 4784, E-mail: sujoybanerjee@wwfindia.net

Anshuman Atroley, Communications Manager, WWF-India
T: +91 11 4150 4797, M: +91 9810169262, E-mail: aatroley@wwfindia.net  

How can you help?
1. One must learn more about tigers and have ample knowledge about them. This will lead to better understanding about our national animal.

2. One of the most powerful and effective ways to influence the governments is to spread awareness about the issue among family and friends. Individuals must write to the government and policy makers to have a stronger stand on the tiger related issues.

3. Join WWF’s online campaign “Help End the Tiger Trade”. For more information please visit: www.wwfindia.org/tiger  


1. For information on all of WWF’s positions go to www.panda.org/species/cites.

2. High resolution pictures of all the identified species and tiger trade are available on request.

3. Species are listed on one of three Appendices according to the level of threat they face:
• Appendix I bans international commercial trade in species.
• Appendix II regulates international trade in species that may be threatened without regulation of the level of trade. Commercial trade is allowed on the condition that specimens are legally obtained and that the trade is not detrimental to the wild population.
• Appendix III lists species that are protected in at least one country, where that country has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the species trade.
• This is the first time the CITES Conference has been held in the European Union, and will see the largest-ever such gathering devoted to the trade in endangered species.


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