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not an official document.
CITES seeks meeting with Prime Minister Singh
to discuss India’s tiger crisis
Geneva, 12 April 2005 – Concerned by recent
reports from India of dramatic declines in some local populations
of the tiger, Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora has written today to the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan
Singh, to offer him the full support of CITES in promoting stronger
conservation and anti-poaching measures.
Wijnstekers has requested a meeting with the Prime Minister at
his earliest possible convenience in order to accelerate cooperation
between CITES and India and to engage the international community
more fully in addressing the tiger crisis. A copy of his letter
“Even if some of the alarming reports emerging
from India are not wholly accurate, there can be no doubt that
India’s wildlife continues to be plundered by poachers and
unscrupulous traders,” said Mr. Wijnstekers.
“These wildlife criminals are exploiting
the poverty that exists in some rural areas of India, treating
villagers as disposable pawns used to poach tigers and leopards
or to smuggle skins to neighbouring countries. There is a highly-organized
criminal structure behind the destruction of wild tigers, and
organized crime requires an organized response. We at CITES want
to be a part of India’s response,” he said.
CITES has long been concerned about the growing
threat to India’s remaining tigers, especially from the
illegal trade in the skins of poached tigers or those killed as
a result of conflict with humans and their livestock. In response,
the CITES Secretariat has scheduled the next meeting of the CITES
Tiger Enforcement Task Force in New Delhi from 17 to 19 May.
This meeting will give CITES and Customs and police
officials from China, India and Nepal the opportunity to discuss
the illegal trade in skins of Asian big cats. (The participants
are also likely to discuss the continuing illegal trade in the
wool of the Tibetan antelope, which affects the three countries
From a population of over 100,000 in the 19th century,
Asia’s wild tiger population has plummeted to an estimated
5,000 to 7,000 individuals. India’s tiger population has
been put at 3,500 to 3,700, although this may be an overestimate.
Tigers range from India and Russia to China and Southeast Asia.
Tiger hunting is now illegal everywhere, and international trade
in tigers and tiger products is completely banned under CITES.
Nevertheless, habitat destruction continues at a rapid pace, live
tigers enter the illegal exotic pet trade, tiger skins are bought
and sold, and tiger parts are sought for presumed health benefits.
The CITES Tiger Enforcement Task Force met in 2001 in New Delhi
and produced guidance on intelligence gathering, analysis, and
dissemination and on specialized wildlife law enforcement units.
It also prompted a training initiative that led to a two-week
course, held in 2002 at the National Police Academy of India,
that was attended by 28 law enforcement officers from 12 countries
Note to journalists: For further information, please contact
CITES Senior Enforcement Officer Mr John Seller at +41-22-9178293
or Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242, +41-79-409-1528 (cell)
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