The illegal trade in tigers is one of the most high profile threats to face these majestic big cats, yet it remains one of the most difficult to tackle.
Wildlife criminals control an organised illegal trade network which spans countries and continents, with tigers being unlawfully killed or poached because of the high value that their fur and body parts fetch on the black market.
Working together to combat tiger trade
Heads of police and customs from the 13 countries in which tigers remain hope to change this, and have agreed to work together to tighten controls and improve cross-border cooperation following a meeting in Bangkok earlier this week.
The ‘Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime’ was held to discuss ways to combat the illegal trade in the big cats, and was organised by Interpol and hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The consortium seeks to scale up wildlife law enforcement effectiveness, through intelligence-led enforcement and advanced investigative methods.
Among the delegates were 26 senior crime officials, as well as representatives from partner organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“[Our efforts to fight tiger crime] must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary General. “If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.”
The meeting in Bangkok was held as part of efforts to improve protection and conservation measures for tigers in the wake of the 2010 Tiger Summit, where it was pledged to double the global population of tigers by 2022.
The seminar was also used to formally endorse the Interpol-led initiative ‘Project Predator’.
Launched in 2011, Project Predator aims to be at the forefront in improving political will to tackle the problem of illegal trade in tiger parts. It also aims to train enforcement officers in the necessary skills to fight wildlife crime.
Furthermore, Project Predator is working to encourage countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces. Each of these task forces will then hopefully form working partnerships with Interpol, in order to provide modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation.
The project is not limited to the protection of tigers, but will in future extend to all of the big cat species in Asia under similar threat, including the snow leopard and Asiatic lion.
Over the past century, tigers have lost more than 93% of their historical range, and population numbers have tumbled. Three subspecies of tiger – the Bali, Javan and Caspian tiger – are classified as Extinct, and only six subspecies of remain in the wild today, each with fewer than 1,000 individuals.
Find out more about the tiger seminar in an article by BBC News
Find out more about Project Predator
View images and footage of the tiger on ARKive
Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author