CITES seeks meeting with Prime Minister Singh to discuss India’s tiger crisis


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PRESS RELEASE

CITES seeks meeting with Prime Minister Singh
to discuss India’s tiger crisis

Geneva, 12 April 2005 – Concerned by recent reports from India of dramatic declines in some local populations of the tiger, Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has written today to the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, to offer him the full support of CITES in promoting stronger conservation and anti-poaching measures.

Mr Wijnstekers has requested a meeting with the Prime Minister at his earliest possible convenience in order to accelerate cooperation between CITES and India and to engage the international community more fully in addressing the tiger crisis. A copy of his letter is attached.

“Even if some of the alarming reports emerging from India are not wholly accurate, there can be no doubt that India’s wildlife continues to be plundered by poachers and unscrupulous traders,” said Mr. Wijnstekers.

“These wildlife criminals are exploiting the poverty that exists in some rural areas of India, treating villagers as disposable pawns used to poach tigers and leopards or to smuggle skins to neighbouring countries. There is a highly-organized criminal structure behind the destruction of wild tigers, and organized crime requires an organized response. We at CITES want to be a part of India’s response,” he said.

CITES has long been concerned about the growing threat to India’s remaining tigers, especially from the illegal trade in the skins of poached tigers or those killed as a result of conflict with humans and their livestock. In response, the CITES Secretariat has scheduled the next meeting of the CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force in New Delhi from 17 to 19 May.

This meeting will give CITES and Customs and police officials from China, India and Nepal the opportunity to discuss the illegal trade in skins of Asian big cats. (The participants are also likely to discuss the continuing illegal trade in the wool of the Tibetan antelope, which affects the three countries represented.)

From a population of over 100,000 in the 19th century, Asia’s wild tiger population has plummeted to an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 individuals. India’s tiger population has been put at 3,500 to 3,700, although this may be an overestimate.

Tigers range from India and Russia to China and Southeast Asia. Tiger hunting is now illegal everywhere, and international trade in tigers and tiger products is completely banned under CITES. Nevertheless, habitat destruction continues at a rapid pace, live tigers enter the illegal exotic pet trade, tiger skins are bought and sold, and tiger parts are sought for presumed health benefits.

The CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force met in 2001 in New Delhi and produced guidance on intelligence gathering, analysis, and dissemination and on specialized wildlife law enforcement units. It also prompted a training initiative that led to a two-week course, held in 2002 at the National Police Academy of India, that was attended by 28 law enforcement officers from 12 countries throughout Asia.

Note to journalists: For further information, please contact CITES Senior Enforcement Officer Mr John Seller at +41-22-9178293 or Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or michael.williams@unep.ch.

 

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