If China reopens trade, tigers will be wiped out: study

July 2nd, 2008 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 2 (IANS) If trade in tiger parts were reopened, the demand in China would end up wiping out the 4,000 big cats that remain in the wild, according to a new study. Researchers based their conclusions on data garnered from seven major Chinese cities against the backdrop of a demand by investors in tiger farming to allow trade.

The data revealed that while the Chinese overwhelmingly support the ban on tiger product sale, 43 percent admitted consuming products made from tiger parts.

More importantly, within this user group, 71 percent preferred products made from wild tigers than their farmed cousins.

Which is why scientists and conservationists fear wild tigers would be wiped out if China reopens tiger trade - even if it is ostensibly limited to farmed animals.

“We finally have data that show if China reopens tiger trade, all bets are off for the survival of wild tigers,” said Judy Mills of the Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking.

“The 4,000 tigers left in the wild would not stand a chance if demand were re-ignited among China’s 1.3 billion consumers,” she added.

China banned domestic trade in medicines and health tonics made from tiger bones in 1993. Conservationists believe this ban has taken enormous pressure off wild tiger populations.

Traditional Chinese medicine specialists now largely embrace effective, sustainable alternatives and have joined the fight to stop all trade in tiger products for the sake of wild tigers and the reputation of China’s traditional medicine system.

The good news in the new study, the authors said, is that 88 percent of respondents are aware that buying tiger products is illegal, and 93 percent agreed that China’s ban was necessary to ensure a future for wild tigers.

The authors recommend that Chinese authorities maintain the tiger trade ban and step up law enforcement and public education to eliminate tiger trade from any source.

The findings of the study have been published online in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

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