China’s Premier Wen Jiabao is coming to town and will be meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron. It’s going to be a regular date – they will meet annually under an existing arrangement over international cooperation on important issues.
We think tigers, and everything tigers represent, should be on their annual agenda, so let’s start now by sending an URGENT message to PM Dave today.
The next tiger-related meeting where the UK will be in the room with China is the 61st Meeting of the Standing Committee of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The meeting will take place from 15-19th August 2011 in Geneva, so let’s see if we can build some momentum between now and then.
Here’s a suggestion of what you might want to say in a letter to Mr Cameron. Or, if you prefer to write your own letter, we’ve provided some background below.
You can post your message to this address:
10 Downing Street,
Or follow this link to send an email https://email.number10.gov.uk/Contact.aspx
Honourable Prime Minister,
I am writing to respectfully request that you join other world leaders in committing to our future environmental security, as symbolised by the survival of the world’s favourite animal, the wild tiger.
I ask that you do this by raising the subject of tigers with Premier Wen Jiabao and his government during bilateral and multi-lateral engagements. Your office and government can help ensure that swift and meaningful action is taken to end the illegal trade in tiger parts and derivatives, and to secure vital tiger forests.
In November 2010, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hosted an International Tiger Forum, where the leaders of tiger range countries committed to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Leaders recognised that the tiger is more than just a charismatic species, with a population at a tipping point of as few as 3500 individuals. The survival of the tiger is a symbol of good environmental governance: of how well we are managing the forests that millions depend upon for water security, and for mitigating climate change.
At the Forum, Premier Wen committed to cooperate with the international community to vigorously combat poaching and trade in tigers. Yet recent reports from the Chinese government fail to provide evidence of enforcement action in major illegal trade hubs that have been at the heart of the trade, where investigators from the UK Environmental Investigation Agency have documented traders selling tiger and other Asian big cat parts; Lhasa, Nagchu and Shigatse (TAR) Linxia (Gansu) and Xining (Qinghai).
There is little evidence of authorities in China proactively investigating the tiger trade in those areas. If they were, they could easily generate actionable intelligence on the transnational criminal networks involved, which could be shared with source countries to coordinate truly effective action against the trade.
Yet this is evidence that both CITES and the wider international community need to see, to believe that China is truly committed to the tiger.
By investing in a fulltime, dedicated and multi-agency enforcement unit, led by enforcement professionals and skilled investigators from police and Customs, China could make a significant dent on these criminal networks – along with a huge contribution, not just to tiger and other Asian big cat conservation, but all endangered species threatened by illegal trade, particularly rhinos and elephants.
You can help keep tigers high on Premier Wen’s political agenda just by raising the subject with him and discussing intelligence-led enforcement strategies. The UK has much experience to share in this regard, with its National Wildlife Crime Unit, and cooperation with INTERPOL, the World Customs Organisation and the CITES Secretariat.
The tiger unfortunately cannot rely on more empty promises; we may face the next Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2022 with nothing more than tigers in the zoo. That is not a vision of our future environment that any of us wish to see.
What is China’s role in the tiger’s future? China banned the domestic trade in tiger bone in 1993, which was the beginning of efforts to end the use of tigers in traditional medicine. While the professional and academic community have been promoting alternatives to tiger bone, there are still business interests seeking to undermine this, especially those associated with tiger farming and the illegal trade in tiger bone wine. There is still a demand for the bones of wild tigers (and leopards as a substitute) while skin is in high demand among the wealthy, military and political elite.
Chinese government delegations at international meetings claim to have taken action against those involved in illegal trade in parts and derivatives of Asian big cats, yet EIA investigators find the same traders, year in, year out, selling skin and bone. (Read Enforcement not Extinction for more information http://www.eia-international.org/cgi/reports/reports.cgi?t=template&a=210 )
What do we want? We want Premier Wen to ensure political and financial investment in new mechanisms to combat the illegal trade in tigers and other Asian big cats in China. One of the most important things he can do in fulfilling his commitment to the Global Tiger Recovery Program – which seeks to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022 – is to significantly enhance China’s efforts to end the tiger trade.
China needs a fulltime, multi-agency enforcement unit that will proactively investigate the networks of traders selling tiger, leopard and snow leopard skins and bones across the country, and generate intelligence on their association with traders in source countries like India and Nepal.
If EIA investigators can find these traders, see the skins and bones they have and learn about how they traffic them, surely, the authorities of a wealthy nation like China could manage to do the same?
Why should the Premier and Prime Minister care? The fact that none of the serious, organised and transnational criminal networks controlling tiger and other wildlife crime have been disrupted, despite all the information about them being relatively easily available, should be a huge worry to any leader concerned about security, corruption and combating all forms of organised crime that undermine social and economic stability. The failure to end the tiger trade is symbolic of the failure to ensure good environmental governance and the failure to fulfil Millennium Development Goals.
The tiger is also a symbol of the forests it lives in, the same forests that secure water for millions of people and mitigate climate change. The tiger is a cultural icon of religious significance, an inspiration to artists, business and the world’s favourite animal. If we can’t save the tiger, what can we save?
Please see here for a copy of EIA Letter to Premier Wen(PDF)