India says Chinese medicine fuels tiger poaching

NEW DELHI Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:20pm EDT

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Talks between India and China to try to save the endangered tiger failed to make much progress, India's environment minister said Thursday.

The use of tiger parts in Chinese medicine was encouraging the poaching of India's tigers, Jairam Ramesh told reporters.

China was also operating tiger farms in violation of international agreements, which stimulated demand, he said.

Ramesh, speaking after a visit to China, said breeding tigers in captivity went against the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

"There are about 4,000 tigers bred in captivity in China. We had discussions with China on this but there is not much success," he said.

"China is party to CITES. On the CITES, captive breeding of tigers is not allowed."

Illegal poaching and loss of natural habitat have caused India's tiger population to plummet in recent decades, even in large swathes of land protected as tiger reserves.

Conservationists say the trade in skin and bones is booming to countries such as China, which has banned the use of tiger parts in medicine but where everything from fur, whiskers, eyeballs, to bones, are still used.

"This is the first time the whole issue of tiger trade and tiger poaching is being discussed in a political forum," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

"There's a huge demand coming from China, prices are skyrocketing. India's like a supermarket."

India's latest tiger census counted just 1,411 cats, down from 3,642 in 2002 and around 40,000 a century ago.

(Writing and additional reporting by Matthias Williams; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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