Illegal tiger trade kills 1,000 in a decade: study

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More than 1,000 tigers have been killed in the past decade to fuel the illegal trade in parts of the endangered big cats, a report by a wildlife monitoring group said Tuesday.

India, China and Nepal ranked highest in the number of seizures of tiger parts but the trade has spiked recently in Southeast Asian nations, British-based Traffic International said.

Complete skins, skeletons, claws, skulls and penises were among the most common items seized, while officials had also found whole animals -- both live and dead, it added.

"With parts of potentially more than 100 wild tigers actually seized each year, one can only speculate what the true numbers of animals are being plundered," said Pauline Verheij, one of the authors of the report.

From January 2000 to April 2010 parts of between 1,069 and 1,220 Tigers were seized in 11 of the 13 countries where tigers live in the wild, the report said.

India, home to half the world's tigers, had by far the highest number of seizures of tiger parts. The 276 raids uncovered parts from 533 tigers.

China had the second highest with 40 raids, followed by Nepal on 39.

But the report said there was a growing number of parts seized in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Myanmar's borders with India and China were a major hotspot, as were the Malaysia-Thailand frontier and the Russia-China border.

Tiger parts are used in many cultures for decoration, traditional medicines and good luck charms.

Mike Baltzer, leader of the environmental group WWF, said the report "demonstrates that illegal tiger trade continues despite considerable and repeated efforts to curtail it by many governments and organisations."

The WWF warned last month that tigers could become extinct within 12 years, with the number of the big cats worldwide plunging 97 percent from its peak to around just 3,200 today.

Russia is scheduled to host a "summit" of the 13 so-called tiger-range countries in Saint Petersburg on November 21-24.

© 2010 AFP

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