June saw EIA's Tiger Campaign team in Bangkok for the release of a new report exposing the failure of the Thai authorities to protect the tiger. The EIA report, Thailand's Tiger Economy, documents how Thailand continues to be a major tiger consumer. Shocking new evidence recorded by EIA reveals that three companies in Thailand are manufacturing products claiming to contain tiger parts, right in the capital city of Bangkok.
The report also raises serious concerns regarding the captive breeding of tigers in Thailand, with one informant stating that live tiger cubs bred in captivity are traded illegally over the borders and on in to China via the Mekong River. This is of particular concern as a prominent Thai Senator is calling for changes in Thai domestic law to allow the sale of body parts from captive bred tigers, a potentially disastrous move for the world's remaining wild tigers. Captive bred tigers could never meet the global demand worldwide for bones, skins, and other body parts and would provide an easy means by which illegal wild caught tiger parts could be laundered.
Thai authorities have consistently ignored past reports of illegal trade from nongovernmental organizations and individuals, demonstrating a degree of apathy that has allowed manufacturers and storeowners in Thailand to operate without fear of being penalized. It was left to EIA to take it a step further and deliver the message in such a way that Thailand can no longer continue to ignore the situation.
EIA is calling on the Thai government to amend existing legislation making it easier for enforcement authorities to do their job by closing down the factories and prosecuting shops selling tiger products, and we are asking for a special enforcement unit to investigate illegal trade across Thai borders.
Since Thailand was omitted from the previous series of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Tiger Technical and Political Missions, we are urging CITES to send a mission to review legislation and enforcement activities, just as they did with India, Japan, and China.
The US has always played a prominent role on the conservation of tigers at CITES meetings, and we hope this leadership will continue.
ACTION The Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee is Kenneth Stansell, Assistant Director for International Affairs in the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Please ask him to ensure that the CITES Standing Committee dispatch a tiger mission to Thailand.