From: Nita Bhalla, Reuters
Published June 13, 2007 12:00 AM

India To Appeal To World To Keep Tiger Trade Ban

NEW DELHI -- India will appeal to a U.N. wildlife forum to retain a ban on trading in tiger parts, despite Chinese lobbying to legalise trade in organs of the endangered big cats, the government said on Tuesday.

China has been pressing countries to support lifting the ban, imposed in 1993, and last week said it would allow trade in parts from captive-bred tigers if a review proved it would reduce poaching and help tigers worldwide.

The support of neighbouring India -- which has the largest number of tigers in the world -- is crucial to China.

Although India is fighting its own battle to save its dwindling big cat population, New Delhi had remained silent on the issue, raising concerns from conservationists.

A government statement said India's junior environment minister, Namo Narayan Meena, would attend the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague on Wednesday.

"The minister will appeal to the international community to support the ban on trade of organs of tigers," said the statement from the environment ministry.

China has about 30 tigers in the wild but has several tiger breeding centres or farms which collectively house about 5,000 tigers.

Conservationists say pressure to lift the ban on the Chinese government is coming from powerful investors in these farms, who stand to make enormous profits if the trade becomes legal.

The businessmen and tiger breeders argue selling tiger parts for use in traditional medicines to treat rheumatism and loss of appetite would actually help preserve the endangered animals as the trade would be regulated and there would less poaching.

Wildlife activists attending the meeting in the Hague say India has at last taken a leadership role on the issue and joined forces with Nepal to draft a proposal on conserving tigers.

The proposal will urge countries to improve law enforcement, restrict the number of cats bred in China's tiger farms and increase international cooperation on conservation and trade efforts.

Delegates say they expect much debate on the proposal, with some countries seeking to strengthen it and China trying to soften parts linked to commercial breeding restrictions.

On Tuesday, CITES said it had asked Beijing to investigate one of its tiger farms after reports that a journalist was offered tiger meat there.

Source: Reuters

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