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137 TIGERS REMOVED FROM CORRUPT "TIGER TEMPLE" IN THAILAND
The Tiger Temple, a popular tourist attraction in Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, has been exposed as a tourist trap and front for illegal wildlife trade.
Following mounting allegations of animal abuse and illicit wildlife trafficking from conservation and animal rights organisations, Thai police and wildlife officials raided the Buddhist Tiger Temple under a court order on Monday 30th May 2016.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation undertook an operation to remove all 137 living tigers to state-owned sanctuaries, Pa Khao Son and Khao Prathap Chang in Ratchaburi. Local veterinarians and wildlife conservation organisations assisted in the relocation.
Suspicions were confirmed when, on Thursday 2nd June, three Buddhist monks were charged after they were caught trying to smuggle tiger skins and charms made from tiger parts away from the temple.
The gruesome discovery of 40 dead tiger cubs, kept frozen in jars, further compounded speculation that illicit tiger products such as tiger bone wine were being made at the Tiger Temple.
The Tiger Temple, which for many years claimed to be a sanctuary for the critically endangered species, tacitly endorsed by the tourism industry, has finally been shut down. While this is a victory for conservationists, it raises serious questions about other so-called tiger sanctuaries and farms that have not been subject to the same scrutiny by the authorities.
Save Wild Tigers founder Simon Clinton talked to BBC World News on 15 April 2016 about the pros and cons of translocating wild tigers to former tiger range countries. Will plans to introduce Bengal tigers from India into Cambodia and Amur tigers from the Russian far east into Kazakhstan be successful? Simon discusses tiger conservation priorities and contemplates the best use of precious resources.
The BBC story followed the conclusion of the 3rd Asian Ministerial Conference on Tigers in New Delhi (12-14 April 2016), where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that "conservation of the tiger is not a choice, it is an imperative."
Following the conference, Save Wild Tigers, along with 22 other non-governmental organisations, signed a post-meeting statement urging top level action from governments, to:
- Prohibit legal domestic trade in tiger parts and derivatives from captive facilities among all consumer countries;
- end tiger breeding for commercial purposes and phase out tiger farms;
- destroy stockpiles of tiger parts and derivatives;
- strengthen enforcement efforts and international cooperation to effectively combat tiger poaching and trade; and
- secure tiger habitat and prevent habitat fragmentation.
Read the full post-conference statement here.
INCREASE IN GLOBAL WILD TIGER NUMBERS
For the first time in recent history, the estimated number of tigers in the wild has increased, giving hope to conservationists across the globe. The global wild tiger population has been steadily declining from 150,000 in 1900 due to poaching, habitat loss and development across tiger-range countries. In 2010, the global wild tiger estimate was reported at an all-time low of 3,200. There are now an estimated 3,890 wild tigers across 12 countries from Russia to Indonesia.
This positive news comes as the 3rd Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation convenes in New Delhi today. The increase may be largely attributed to committed efforts since the Global Tiger Summit in 2010 by governments in India, Russia, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Overall, however, the status of wild Tigers is still CRITCAL. Whilst wild tiger populations in India are on the rise, numbers are dwindling to below 10 in China, Vietnam, and Lao PDR, and the situation in Malaysian and Indonesia is acute. Just last week Cambodia declared that its tiger population is now functionally extinct.
The new estimate must be accepted with caution as many of the numbers are statistical means or estimates based on the best available knowledge. Actual populations, both today and in 2010, may be higher or lower and some of the increase may be attributed to improved survey methods.
Nevertheless, the upward trend is an inspiring step toward the 2022 goal of increasing global wild tiger numbers to more than 6,000. Currently the biggest threat to wild tigers is poaching to fuel demand for tiger products, parts, and derivatives. If the governments of tiger range countries will adopt a commitment to zero poaching in New Delhi this week, as called for by Save Wild Tigers along with 22 other NGOs, wild tiger populations will have a real chance of fighting back.
The 3rd Asian Ministerial Conference on Tigers will be held April 12-14 in New Delhi.