China, Tiger and CITES
Tuesday, June 5, 2007 8:12:55 AM
The story above underpins the disagreement between China and India on the best way to save the tiger. India remains wedded to protection as the most appropriate means to save the tiger (despite catasrophic declines in tiger numbers in many Indian reserves link). They have the backing of WWF, TRAFFIC and many other environmental NGOs.
China has not been impressed with the success of this approach. The State Forest Administration has been exploring market-based tools to assist conservation. This is perhaps not surprising given that there are somewhere between 4000 and 5000 tigers in captive-facilities in China. There are possibly only 60 tigers left in the wild in China. These consist of at least 3 completely distinct and separate populations.
While many of these tigers are of little conservation value (they're hybrids of several sub-species) there are encouraging signs that some sub-species are being resurrected and bloodlines are being err, purified.
Microchipping a Captive Tiger in Guilin
The most controversial idea however, is that China's captive population of tigers could be employed as an alternative source of tiger-bone. Currently the only sources are from the black-market, and it is unlikely that much of the illegally-harvested bone originates in China. China's neighbours are thus one of the key sources of black-market tiger-bone. The primary source of Chinese black-market tiger bone however, is the Chinese cattle population. Most 'black-market' tiger-bone is actually cow-bone...China's black marketeers have a quality-control problem. Hence, the possibility that legal tiger-bone could crowd out the poachers from the market, is an interesting strategy to attack poachers where it matters the most- their profits.