Singapore jewelers selling tiger parts: report

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Some jewelry shops in Singapore are illegally selling tiger parts, helping fuel the disappearance of the big cat from Asia, a local animal protection group said on Friday. A three-month investigation by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) found that 59 out of 134 jewelry and antique shops it visited in the Southeast Asian city-state were allegedly selling tiger parts, including claws, teeth and pieces of skin.

All commercial tiger trade has been banned by the international CITES convention that Singapore has signed, and under domestic law the sale of tiger specimens is prohibited, even if the products turn out not to be real, ACRES said. Shopkeepers told ACRES that demand had been higher over Lunar New Year -- the start of the Year of the Tiger -- and more orders could be placed for parts that could take from a week to three months to be delivered.

The parts came from Southeast Asia, China and South Asia, they said.

Tiger parts are used to make jewelry and Chinese medicine.

Tigers in the Greater Mekong region face extinction, conservationists say. Global tiger populations are at an all-time low of 3,200, down from about 100,000 a century ago, as forest habitats disappear and the animals are killed for their body parts, used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Asian countries are a hotspot for the illegal wildlife trade, which the international police organization Interpol estimates may be worth more than $20 billion a year.

“As long as there is demand, there will be supply,” said Singapore member of parliament Lim Wee Kiak. “Legislation alone is insufficient to bring a complete halt to the illegal trading.”

Reporting by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Sugita Katyal