Case History - Tigers
Fifty years ago there were eight subspecies of tiger, but three are now extinct. Today, all five remaining subspecies are endangered. According to the World
Wildlife Fund, there are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild today. All tigers are in demand by Eastern countries because of their belief that tiger bones, claws, teeth and most other body parts have medicinal properties. China, South Korea and Taiwan are the main consumers but tiger products are also exported to Chinese communities in the rest of the world. China's own tigers are almost extinct so traders have turned to tigers in other countries and much illegal smuggling goes on. Tiger numbers are also declining because of the loss of their forest habitat and a shortage of prey.
Most tiger countries have laws protecting them, but they are often poorly enforced. Tigers are on Appendix I of CITES but five of the fourteen countries (which include China, India, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Russia and Japan) have yet to join CITES - Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and North Korea. However, these five, together with the CITES members, have voluntarily pledged to stop international trade in tiger products and, within their countries, to ban the use of tiger bone in traditional medicine. These countries have formed the Global Tiger Forum to discuss ways of working together to help tiger populations recover.
The protection laws must be enforced if the tiger is to survive. The US government's action of imposing trade sanctions on Taiwan, and threatening to do the same to China, may help. Hopefully, the Global Tiger Forum's discussions will bring about effective enforcement. Conservation organisations have set up projects to try and control poaching and to win the support of people who live in tiger areas, and to persuade people to use alternatives to traditional tiger-based medicines.