India and China must share intelligence and strengthen their enforcement agencies to crack down on organised criminal gangs that illegally trade tiger skins and parts, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.
NEW DELHI India and China must share intelligence and strengthen their enforcement agencies to crack down on organised criminal gangs that illegally trade tiger skins and parts, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.
India has half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say the country is losing the battle to save the big cats. There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but decades of poaching have cut their number to 3,700.
Some groups say their number could be as low as 1,200.
The killing has been partly fuelled by rising demand for tiger skins and parts in neighbouring China.
Wildlife experts said that while India and China have stiff penalties for illegal trading in animal parts, both countries lacked the political will to follow up cases with convictions.
"We need a centralised wildlife enforcement unit in both countries led by professionals who share information," said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
Other experts said both nations were up against professionals.
"The vast majority of those involved in this trade are well organised criminal gangs, not just some individual poacher," said Nick Mole of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent international group fighting environmental crime.
The experts called for a new enforcement agency, like a "Wildlife FBI", to be set up as quickly as possible in India and China.
In India, violators have to pay a fine of up to 500,000 rupees ($10,900) and can be jailed for up to seven years. China hands down a life sentence to traffickers and poachers.
In India, there have been only 30 convictions in the past 30 years, and there are still around 1,400 cases pending in courts.
The EIA and WPSI said during a recent investigation in Tibet they found the trade in tiger parts booming and it was easy to buy and sell skins, which fetch more than $10,000 each.