TOKYO (Reuters) - More than 1,000 tigers have been killed over the last decade for illegal trade in parts such as skin and bones, and this is likely only a small fraction of the true numbers, a study by wildlife protection groups says.
India saw by far the most seizures of tiger parts, followed by China, Nepal, and Indonesia, said British-based Traffic International, which carried out the study with help from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).
“With parts of potentially more than 100 wild tigers actually seized each year, one can only speculate what the true numbers of animals are being plundered,” said Pauline Verheij, joint Traffic and WWF Tiger Trade Programme Manager and an author of a report on the study.
A study issued in September by the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society said Asia’s tiger population could be near extinction, with fewer than 3,500 remaining in the wild.
Tiger parts reported in trade ranged from complete skins, skeletons, and even whole animals — alive and dead — through to bones, meat, claws, teeth, skulls, penises and other body parts, the report said.
A total of 481 parts seizures were analyzed, suggesting at least 1,069 tigers killed and a maximum of 1,220, between January 2000 to April 2010.
That works out to an annual average ranging from 104 to 119 tigers, though the report warns that this is only a fraction of the total trade.
Though India remains a major player in the supply of tiger parts, the roles of Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam as suppliers are growing as demand remains for tiger products.
“The data show that illegal tiger trade continues unabated despite considerable and repeated efforts to curtail it on the part of tiger range and consumer countries, inter-governmental organizations, and NGOs,” the report says.
Tiger parts are used in many cultures as good luck charms, decoration or in traditional medicines, with the animals symbolizing strength, courage and luck.
Writing by Elaine Lies; editing by Ron Popeski