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Premier Wen Jiabao

Premier Wen Jiabao

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.

Ranthambore Tiger

Ranthambore Tiger

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,
London,
SW1A 2AA

Or follow this link to send an email https://email.number10.gov.uk/Contact.aspx

*******************************************

Date

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.

Yours sincerely,

XXXXX

Background:

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 )

Whole Tiger skin offered to EIA Investigators

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)

Debbie Banks, Head of Tiger Campaign

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We asked Simon Clinton, the driving force behind the Save Wild Tigers gala held back in March of this year, what makes him so passionate about saving the wild tiger and find out just how ambitious his plans are.
View of a tiger in the wild, India. Copyright Robin Hamilton,

View of a tiger in the wild, India. Image courtesy of Robin Hamilton. Watch the video

Watch the sensational tiger video The Clinton Partnership put together for the project.

“The inaugural Save Wild Tigers black tie dinner in March, at the Mandarin Oriental was without doubt a great success. Why? Firstly we all came together to fight the cause under a single umbrella, EIA, Born Free & WildAid. Secondly, we managed to galvanise support for our 6 month awareness programme – an art exhibition on tigers, a forum at the RGS and finally the gala dinner, which raised close to £100,000. A great achievement by all.
“Back in the 70`s as a kid being brought up in Malaysia I first became aware of Tigers, and indeed my Fathers support then for Tiger conservation work in Malaysia with the WWF. However only in recent years did I really understand how dire the situation was, frightening numbers – 3,200 left, $10,000 for a Tiger skin, 10 years to extinction, these numbers hit hard.
Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

Save Wild Tigers - London 2011

As a marketing guy, the power of this iconic symbol over the years for brands and indeed upon varying cultures is incalculable, think Tony the Tiger from Kellogg’s, think Esso/Exxon Mobile “a Tiger in the Tank”, think enjoying a Tiger beer on a relaxing beach in Malaysia, or a indeed a kids story around Tigers, it’s time we gave something back to them – before it’s too late.
For me, the journey actually begins now, for others like Debbie it began many years ago. Personally, I can’t think of many other causes that have had such a impact on our culture and lives for thousands of years, yet could all be over in 10 short years, indeed we are already 6 months into our 10 years, the clock really is ticking!
“Let’s really pick up the pace, there’s so much we can all do. If you need inspiration, watch the video on www.savewildtigers.org or the EIA site and help us before it’s too late.”
Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges

Simon Clinton (left) with Virginia McKenna and artist Gary Hodges at the Tiger Gala

Simon Clinton
The Clinton Partnership

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Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

I’m now back at EIA from India. I’ll have to agree with a colleague on my lack of any kind of suntan, as I spent most of my time positioned firmly out of the sunshine, indoors, attending a suite of tiger conferences which included the release of India’s latest tiger census figures.

Recently, Debbie filled you in on these events by way of her blog Reading Between the Tiger Numbers. And yes, quite possibly the award for “most memorable moment” of the conference, along with the release of the census figures, goes to the Chinese delegation’s apparent reliance on NGOs to prove the existence of the illegal tiger trade in China – rather than proactively undertaking the investigations that could uncover and combat the underground trade (and help raise tiger numbers even higher).

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

But I also remember another comment. At a time where so much of the natural world is either being parcelled out or branded with an economic value; where it seems to me we’re dangerously close to living in a world where everything is being eyed up as a potential commodity – or at the very least, where commercial value trumps all other ways of defining and understanding our relationships with the world – one observation from a participant gave me hope.  That participant spoke about the importance of engaging with and promoting the spiritual value of nature, as a means to conserving it.

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

For me, simultaneously experiencing and being part of the natural world is a spiritual experience, and I believe that’s also the case for millions, if not billions, of other people. Many different faiths have teachings relating to nature, and idea of people experiencing nature “together” has a marvellously unifying force.

So whilst in India, I did manage to greet the open air in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. My internal marvellings at the rugged silvery landscape, the unique light (perfect for painters, I reckon) and the wildlife we saw were simultaneously reflected out loud by my travelling companions in our jeep.

We’d set out very early in the morning. As our jeep wound along the dust road, we turned a corner and suddenly ground to a halt. Just ahead, an imposing male tiger was marking a tree. We had suddenly found ourselves in his territory. My heart leapt, my legs ran to jelly, and every last bit of breath left my body. Frozen, we watched as the tiger turned and started walking towards us. And he kept on coming. Slowly, we backed up.

It all seems to be in slow motion now. After many incredibly, what must have been long seconds, he changed course and climbed into the bank of bushes next to him. Craning my neck, I caught one last glimpse – he’d turned and paused so I could see him side-on. One gliding movement was all it took for his stripes to literally melt into the foliage and dissolve away.

Then of course we all turned to each other and couldn’t say very much. So that was a “shared moment”.

(And I eventually remembered to breathe again.)

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

I read one definition of “the Sublime”, as a concept, being something that inspires both fear and awe. We’ll always remember the experiences that lift our spirits – in fact, reveal our spirits. Pointing that out is nothing new. The originality lies in the truly endless opportunities the natural world offers to have such experiences, whether it’s seeing a wild tiger in India or experiencing the first bursts of spring here in the UK.

EIA’s vision is a future where humanity respects, protects and celebrates the natural world for the benefit of all.

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence Analyst

Charlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

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Dr. Jhala

Dr. Jhala speaking at the International Conference on Tiger Conservation

 

 

 

You might have heard there was a tiger conference in Delhi last week, you’ve probably seen news about India’s tiger population, but did you hear anything about China’s absurd comment about tiger trade?

Probably not. The media shuffled out following India’s announcements, and the rest of the gathering of Tiger Range Countries was mostly a mela of sickly sweet back-patting sessions.

Countries stood up to present their “To Do” lists for the rest of 2011 and reported on progress since the St Petersburg International Tiger Forum. A number of delegates reported seizures of tiger parts since St Petersburg, and that the consignments were headed to China. Troubled by this, Bangladesh asked China what action they were taking to stop the trade.

Apart from the ban and public education since 1993, China has effective enforcement. Eh?! Yep, that’s right. China stated that they get information from NGOs in their country such as TRAFFIC, IFAW, “and sometimes” EIA, but they haven’t received any recent information about trade in tiger skin and bone and that’s because China has “good control of illegal trade in tiger parts”.

Surely we had misheard. But no, a delegate from China later confirmed their belief, that since EIA visits every year, and since they did not hear from us in 2010, they assumed it was because we couldn’t find any evidence of trade.

We didn’t visit China in 2010! Credit crunch and all that. That’s the only reason we didn’t provide them with a report that year! What a frightening insight into the logic that is failing the tiger.

So much for Premier Wen Jiabao’s commitment to “vigorously combat poaching and trade”, he needs to crack the whip and make sure there are more boots on the ground proactively gathering intelligence on the tiger traders, not waiting for the NGOs to point out the problem areas.

And excuse me, we still haven’t had a response to our findings from 2009!

There’s more. In their “To Do” list for the meeting, under items “Completed” China reported that they had undertaken inspections of tiger farms and markets between August and December 2010. When asked if there were any seizures, arrests or prosecutions resulting from these inspections, one delegate said he didn’t know, the other asked for the question in writing because he didn’t want to make the “mistake of misunderstanding” me. This from a delegate who had chaired an entire session of the meeting the day before!

But in a real twist that seriously undermines the good words of Wen Jiabao, China’s list refers to a skin registration scheme, allowing tiger skins to be labelled, so they could be “monitored”, not destroyed. This sounds strikingly similar to the scheme announced in 2007 to register, label and sell skins of “legal origin”, including those of farmed tigers. When asked, one delegate confirmed that skins from farmed tigers were being labelled and stored but he didn’t know if any had been sold, the other delegate…well my Scottish accent was still troubling him.

 Fear not tiger fans, we won’t give up!

Oh, and good luck to the Government of Kazakhstan who plan to reintroduce tigers south of Lake Balkhash. Close to the border with China.

And now for something to get happy about?

So, India’s tiger population is an estimated 1706 adults, a higher number than indicated by the 2006 estimate of 1411. But does it really reflect an increase in the tiger population?

Compared to 2006, there were additional tiger areas covered by the surveys in 2010, including the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, parts of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Assam. Discounting those additions, the scientists say there has been a 12% increase in areas surveyed both in 2006 and 2010.

Reading between the numbers there are some surprises, with news that Kanha Tiger Reserve, the jewel in the crown of the self-styled “Tiger State” of Madhya Pradesh, has lost tigers, that too despite more regular monitoring. The new champions are in the Western Ghats, where poaching is less prevalent, and where that landscape has emerged as host to the largest single population of wild tigers anywhere in the world.

Tiger in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

More good news in the north, where some populations outside protected areas are stable and showing signs of increase in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, despite being close to tiger trafficking borders.

 

But there’s no time to do cartwheels. In fact, the lead scientist overseeing the work, Dr YV Jhala from the Wildlife Institute of India, and the Minister of Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, both went to great lengths during the media scrum to highlight some hard-hitting truths of considerable concern.

For example, tiger occupancy has declined considerably, down from 93,600 sq km to 72,800 sq km. That is a massive 20,000 sq km that is now devoid of tigers, compared to just four years ago, and that too outside of the protected areas. While the density of the tiger population in these areas might not be high, they are critical for linking the otherwise isolated tiger populations, and thus the long-term survival of wild tigers. Finding out where and how should be number one on the Government of India’s “To Do” list. Hmm, we’re looking forward to the release of the detailed data and maps.

Debbie Banks Senior Campaigner

 

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Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

Will Travers & Joanna Lumley

Last Thursday saw the culmination of months of work, events invariably incur high levels of stress in the lead up; Will everyone turn up? How will the auction go? And the big question, will we raise enough money to have made all the effort worthwhile?

It was indeed a labour of love and I am immensely proud to say, yes it was worth every moment spent in preparation, the mild hysteria during the day and the pain of putting my feet in heels for an extended period of time, we raised over £100,000 and we’re still totting up the figures!!! Once costs are accounted for the total will be split between the 3 NGO’s.

What made the evening such a success? I believe it was the collaborative dedication of all the people involved. I recall sitting in a small meeting room months ago with what was at the time just a group of like-minded people (and all strangers to me), Simon Clinton had a vision and his enthusiasm was infectious, he threw time, energy and brilliant people on board to move the project forward. The complementary nature of the three NGO’s involved led to a natural partnership and everyone got stuck in! Sourcing auction prizes, guests, venue, entertainment, wine and champers not to mention celebrities, all at minimal expense possible, is no easy task with the 3rd of March ever looming!

Then of course, there’s the food, I must confess, attending the tasting at the Mandarin Oriental stands out as a particular highlight. It was a tricky business deciding which of the exquisite five courses should be served to our 200 guests but I take pride in my thoroughness and ensured the final menu was a culinary delight.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

All the goody bags!

Another task delegated to EIA was the humble goody bag. Guests paying a hefty £300 expect a certain caliber within the tiger themed bag; clients of The Clinton Partnership generously contributed but where was the rest to come from? Two words. Cold calling. I have a deep-rooted fear of cold calling, is it just me? Perhaps it’s because I fear rejection, well no one likes to be dumped over the phone. Thankfully, after much personal procrastination the wonderful Café Direct and Lush jumped on the idea and generously donated 200 fabulous goodies, old EIA friends Iain Green and Laura Barwick did the same and my ego remained intact.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

The Thai Music Circle

And then the day itself, filling up the goody bags was executed with military position and table plans finalised. As soon as it hit 5.30 an army of people were on board to transform the room into an Asian paradise, whilst simultaneously transforming ourselves from shabby NGO staff to glamorous and elegant folk. The Thai Music Circle began to play, photographers from Hello and Ok were poised and the champagne was poured as the firsts guest arrived.

Show time.

My Asian roots led to me playing a role front of house, inspired by the idea to represent as many tiger range countries as humanly possible, it was a very novel honour to lead Buddhist monks from the Buddhapadipa temple through the tables of expecting guests to the stage to bless the tiger.

Tiger Gala. Credit Mike Daines

Virginia McKenna, Donal MacIntyre & Joanna Lumley

The celebrities had turned out, Donal MacIntyre did a fantastic job of hosting throughout the evening, alas Mr. Bailey did not make it but Joanna Lumley’s impromptu but powerful speech reminded everyone why they were there. I am in awe of the wonderful Nicholas Parsons, how he personally commanded the room full of, by this time, rather saturated guests. Extravagant auction prizes went to the highest bidder amidst plenty of cajoling from Mr. Parsons. The Malaysian drummers took people’s attention away from the food and to the stage, the fabulous Made Pujawati, captivated us with her Balinese tiger dance. Gauri’s dancers performed an exquisite Kathak dance, culminating in all artists sharing the stage, with a Chinese lion dance finale. It worked seamlessly, a shame it’s not mirrored politically.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAidBy midnight my ratio of strictly working vs. wine consumption tipped heavily towards the latter and I rested my sore feet satisfied that is was a job well done.

See The Londonist review of the night.

Something I am still in awe of is the generosity of individuals and companies despite the current age of austerity. Here are my hearty thanks to the following companies who contributed to our fantastic evening, Pangkor Laut Resort, Air Asia, Arsenal, Jacob’s Creek, Laurent-Perrier, Easter & Oriental Express, The Ritz-Carlton, Cowdray Park Polo Club, YTL Hotels, Land Rover, Twining, encounters asia, Raymond Blanc Cookery School, Thyme at Southdrop, Samara, Vintage Roots, Texture, Tiger Beer, Real Digital International, Café Direct, Tiger J’s Chocolate, theWildGarlic, Kit Digital, Chewton Glen.

Tiger Gala. Credit WildAid

Liz Bonnin & other tiger friends.

To individuals I would like to thank, Betty Yao, Zehan Verden, Ralph Dixon, Jimmy Choo, Ching-He Huang, Bill Oddie, Simon Lycett, Ronni Ancona, Alistair McGowan, Gary Hodges, Iain Green, Laura Barwick, Frances Jarvis, Joanna Lumley, Donal MacIntyre, Nicholas Parsons, Christy Symington, Laura Lian, Chris Wright, Steve Cawston, Liz Bonnin, Virginia McKenna, Rob Murray.

To our entertainers, Gauri Sharma Tripathi and her dancers, Made Pujawati, Thai Music Circle, Lim’s Martial Arts and a special thank you to the monks from the Buddhapadipa Temple, London.

Tiger gala. Credit EIA

Sophia Cheng

Membership & Fundraising Officer

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Credit www.theawl.comYou’ll probably have noticed that this week, the Oscars took place. In the end, I chose sleep over staying up to watch the ceremony (my tolerance for sleep deprivation has, er, “decreased in inverse proportion” to my age). But as the fallout settles, I’ve been thinking about the movies.

Take the idea of a film script; say it’s a film about environmental crime. (The message flashes up at the beginning: “this is a true story…”) This film script has many scenes, over the course of which, a story develops. Then there’s the cast – all of whom have different roles with varying depths of involvement. Some only have bit parts – but their appearance might nevertheless be central to the plot – and then there are some that are present throughout.

The location of each scene depends on the characters’ particular activities (the forest, the tannery, the border crossing). The actors need “props” to carry out their roles, ranging from traditional traps to firearms, helicopters with obscured registrations and satellite phones.

With all this activity, we need to remember what binds the script and story together, changing hands on its complicated and covert journey from origin to destination. Whether it’s rhino horn, elephant ivory, tiger skin…I’ve realised that my favourite character would already be dead before the film starts.

This isn’t just a metaphor, but another way of looking at crime. For several years now, criminologists like Derek Cornish have been developing “crime scripts” which identify and isolate what criminal actors require to perfectly execute their parts –in terms of both tools and (spoken like a true thespian) “motivation”.

Each activity is broken down into “acts” like in a play or the scenes in our film. Reading through, you get a sequential chain of criminal decisions and behaviours, along with what is required to undertake each act successfully. So if the poaching of a tiger is one act or scene, to “perform” the act successfully, preparation activities are inherent: poachers gather local intelligence about tiger sightings; they identify the water holes the tiger has frequented; they block paths to all water holes but one, then poison water in the remaining hole, and so on.

So when you have your entire crime script – from poaching to end market – and the culmination of all of these acts, preparation activities and facilitators, you can identify intervention points throughout and say, “there’s a point where we can make a change”; and so, we hope, re-write the outcome of the film.

It might not be a typical “happy ending” – but at least one in which criminals are identified, investigated and prosecuted. Then, there will be other interventions that can deter – or even recruit into conservation.

At EIA, we believe it’s fundamental that the complexity of criminal networks is recognised – along with their ability to react, mutate and recover from enforcement efforts. Ultimately, crime is great at survival. Enforcement needs to be sensitive to this reality. Enforcement shouldn’t, for example, be “scripted” to the extent that law enforcement actions are announced publicly, in advance of being carried out! 1

PIcture 1 - Copyright EIA

Picture 1

Neither should enforcement be content with arresting a courier or a trader and saying “job done”. Think about a criminal network, or some of the actors in our film. In the first picture, each person is a white bubble and their associations with each other are the blue links. Fair enough; but it doesn’t tell us much more than that. So, instead of going in blind and arresting the visible (and therefore probably superficial) members of the network, ensure your investigation is tailor-made for the appropriate target.

Result A  Copyright EIA

Result A

Maybe you need to target the people who control the flow of information into a network. These people are the “gatekeepers”; in Result A, they are bubbles flagged in red and then in pink (and so on in decreasingly darker shading, until those people with the least control over information). This can include people who can block those on the periphery communicating with more centrally placed individuals.

If however, you want to identify the people who have the best access to other parts of the network, then you get a slightly different result (Result B). Or, if you want to identify the people who have the strongest links within the network due to their links with well-connected people (these are “people who know people” and likely extremely influential), then it’s Result C, which is different again.

Result B copyright EIA

Result B

So where do you want to make the biggest impact? Do you want to disrupt, fragment or shatter the network? Identifying the different roles in a network provides subtly different options for developing an investigation, and a way of maximising limited resources. It enables the targeting of those players whose removal will most effectively halt criminal activity.

Result C Copyright EIA

Result C

Yes, networks will no doubt be more complicated than this example, and they can be loose and fluid, and not always easy to identify. But that’s where commitment and an intelligence-led approach comes in. And now world leaders have now made a commitment to protect wild tigers – let’s have a screenplay with a difference. Who wins the award for best enforcement?  Who’s writing the script anyway?

 

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence Analyst

 

 

 

 

Charlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

Reference 1 CITES Secretariat, Report by the CITES Secretariat on its verification and assessment mission to China, 28 March-7 April 2007, CoP14 Doc. 52 Annex 7 (2007)

 

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Copyright istock.And so, as we slink silently from Year of the Tiger and bound into the Year of the Rabbit, we pause to reflect on whether the last twelve months have been truly auspicious for the great cat, have we turned a corner, can we look to 2022 and the next Year of the Tiger with hope?

The Global Tiger Recovery Program, adopted in St Petersburg last year by the governments of countries where tigers live, sets out the broad brush stroke actions they are committed to, in order to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Last year, we reported on how many of these promises have been made before, and already we are starting to see cracks in this road to recovery.

The beleaguered Minister of Environment & Forests for India, Jairam Ramesh, constantly has to defend forests from industrial encroachment. Having boldly declared no-go, hands-off forest areas to stop the coal miners from ripping them up, today he was forced by louder voices in the cabinet to concede a significant amount. Where was the Prime Minister during these cabinet decisions? What of his government’s commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to tiger and biodiversity-compatible management of forest corridors and landscapes?

Credit Mike VickersMeanwhile in Burma, the authorities are hunting down the activist who blew the whistle on the colonisation of forest by a private corporation in the Hukawng Valley, which was only recently declared the world’s largest tiger reserve. Villagers have been turfed out to make way for sugar cane plantations. How does this fulfil the commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to engage local communities, let alone ensure the security of tiger habitat?

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so at EIA we’re baking a cake. The ingredients are all the positive and negative decisions governments make following the St Petersburg meeting, all the incidents of forest rescue or forest destruction, poaching and trade, convictions, intelligence sharing or lack thereof. If you want to help us, feel free to email us with verified reports of the good and the bad, and lets see what we can turn out.

My own tiger guru, Valmik Thapar, recently gave a talk at Asia House in London about the tiger in Indian art. Really, he was talking about the Cult of the Tiger; of the value and role of the tiger in hearts and minds, expressed through rituals, dance, paintings and sculptures dating back centuries.

Perhaps the Year of the Tiger, symbolic of bravery and competitiveness helped the tiger jostle for position on the political agenda. Maybe the Year of the Rabbit, symbolic of creativity, compassion and sensitivity will help us touch the values of those who live with tigers and reignite a cult that can save the cat from extinction?

A combination of the two might be good, and thanks go to my colleague Debby Ng, for sharing reference to such a symbolic creature, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit.

And finally, we have teamed up with Born Free and WildAid, for the fundraising event of the year, all in aid of the wild tiger. You can find out more about it here. Within the last hours Jimmy Choo has confirmed. Be in with the chance of winning two tickets in our raffle draw.

Debbie Banks

Debbie Banks

Senior Campaigner

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