International Tiger Coalition statement on ABC's 20/20 program
WASHINGTON DC – The International Tiger Coalition (ITC), an
international group of organizations committed to ending tiger trade, rejects
the false and deeply flawed argument that tigers bred on industrialized farms
can save wild tigers as presented on ABC’s 20/20 tonight.
Tiger farms were established and are managed primarily for commercial trade,
not conservation, driven by profit from the sales of tiger-bone wine and skins.
At present, all commercial trade in tigers and their products is illegal. But as
long as there are tiger farms that promise a future reopening of tiger trade,
the ban cannot be effective.
Since initiating a domestic ban on tiger trade in 1993, the Chinese
government has removed tiger bone as an ingredient in the traditional Chinese
medicine (TCM) pharmacopeia and invested in the development of effective
alternative medicines and public awareness campaigns. It has been very effective
in protecting wild tigers by stopping the previously legal market, reducing
demand and allowing some fragile tiger populations to stabilize, such as the
Siberian tiger in the Russian Far East.
A contingent of business owners with financial interest in large-scale tiger
farms and their supporters are now pushing China to rescind the ban. Permitting
even a limited trade in farmed tigers within China will undermine decades of
conservation efforts across the range of the tiger by reigniting a market demand
that has nearly been extinguished and increase poaching of wild tigers.
Poaching will always be too cost-competitive an option to ignore: consider
the price of a bullet, trap or poison to kill a wild tiger against an estimated
US$4,000 to US$10,000 to raise a farmed tiger to maturity. Wild-sourced products
are also consistently perceived to be superior by consumers, a situation that
has resulted in wild Asiatic black bears being poached despite the saturation of
the Chinese market with bear bile from farmed bears.
Finally, the notion that tigers bred on a farm can be reintroduced to the
wild, thus contributing to the survival of wild populations, has no factual
basis. Farmed tigers are likely to be too genetically and behaviorally
compromised to be released into the wild.
Farming tigers for trade will only hasten the irreplaceable loss of a species
on the brink. With improved enforcement, existing bans can wipe out tiger trade
before tiger trade wipes out wild tigers.
“It is inconceivable that profit and the bottom line
was the only lens through which 20/20 approached the issue of tiger farming,”
said Grace Gabriel, Asia Regional Director of IFAW and ITC member, who was
interviewed by the show. “Every player in that trade chain is criminally
responsible for the depletion of tigers in the wild, from poachers to smugglers
to traders and to those who promote tiger trade: investors and owners of tiger
“Unfortunately, 20/20 focused on sensational and unproven free-market
theories applied to tiger farming instead of presenting a balanced report on the
inherent risks to the tiger’s very survival in the wild,” said Judy Mills of
Conservation International and Moderator of the ITC, who was interviewed on the
show. “All our science and studies indicate that opening tiger trade and
encouraging tiger farms is bad news for wild tigers and by extension, for people
and the planet.”
Note to Editors:
B-roll (TRT: 2.06, NATSOT)
High-resolution images available from Save the
- The population of wild tigers has plummeted from 100,000 a century ago to
around 4,000 today. China, the country where the tiger species is believed to
have originated, has fewer than 25 tigers left in the wild along its borders
with Russia and Laos. China’s population of tigers on its border with Russia
could recover – as long as trade remains closed within China.
- Tigers are vital to the health of ecosystems. The loss of these flagship
species impacts biodiversity, deprives nations of rightful revenue from tourism
and agriculture, and puts food security and the health of people at risk.
- Tigers are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which bans the international
trade of tigers, their parts and derivatives, for commercial purposes. In 2007,
the 171 CITES member governments decided by consensus that tigers should not be
bred in farms for their parts and products – because they agreed tiger farming
threatens the survival of wild tigers.
- A 2007 poll in China by Save the Tiger Fund found that 90 percent of Chinese
people favor keeping the tiger trade ban in place for the sake of wild tigers
and China’s international image. Legitimate Traditional Chinese Medicine
practitioners have also moved away from using tiger bone in medicine.
- A 2007 survey by TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade programme of WWF and IUCN) of
over 500 retail TCM shops in China showed that hardly any shops stock tiger bone
as medicine. Of 518 shops, only 2.5 percent claim availability of tiger bone and
64 percent are aware of the trade ban. Today, TCM colleges no longer teach the
use of tiger bone as medicine, and legitimate, law-abiding practitioners around
the world no longer use tiger bone.