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Alarming Rise in Illegal Tiger Skin Trade

6 October 2004

Environmental Investigators Reveal Alarming Rise in Illegal Tiger Skin Trade at CITES Meeting in Bangkok

The illegal trade in tiger skins has surged to alarming levels over the last five years, and poses a direct threat to the world's dwindling population of wild tigers, according to new evidence
released by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today.

EIA's new report, entitled "The Tiger Skin Trail", was released as
delegates from over 160 countries gathered in Bangkok for a meeting of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the global
agreement that regulates trade in endangered animals and plants.

Debbie Banks, EIA's Tiger Campaign Leader, said: "Detailed field
investigations reveal the existence of well-organised syndicates trafficking
tiger and leopard skins between India, Nepal, Tibet Autonomous Region and
China. Better enforcement cooperation between the countries involved is
urgently needed to combat this growing menace to the last remaining 5,000
wild tigers."

In October 2003, customs officers in Tibet Autonomous Region intercepted a
record haul of 31 tiger skins and 581 leopard skins being trucked towards
the capital Lhasa. Intelligence collated by EIA shows a surge in tiger and
leopard skin seizures, and reveals the existence of cross-border networks
smuggling poached skins from India and Nepal into the Tibet Autonomous
Region and China.

While international trade in tigers has been banned under CITES since 1975
(except for the Siberian sub-species, added in 1987), EIA's evidence shows
continued demand which is fuelling poaching and illegal trade. With a single
tiger skin selling for $10,000 in Lhasa, the traffickers' profit motive is clear, and the risk of

capture minimal as wildlife crime is not a priority issue.

EIA's analysis of the tiger skin trade reveals serious flaws in enforcement
cooperation between the countries through which the skins are smuggled. With
the theme of improved enforcement against illegal wildlife traders being set
at this CITES meeting by the opening speech of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, EIA urges India, Nepal and China to work together to combat the
skin trade threatening the world's tigers.

Banks continued: "Tigers poached in India are ending up as luxury décor in
the homes of wealthy Chinese, and are often smuggled through Nepal. The huge
seizure in Lhasa shows that effective enforcement is possible. We call on
the three countries to intensify their efforts and to join forces to halt
this trade, and for the CITES meeting to fully support such measures."

For more information, please contact:

Julian Newman +66 (0) 47269288 (mobile)

Ashley Misplon +44 207 354 7960 day
+44 207 419 4384 evening

Copies of the report and a video news release (Beta) are available on

Editor's notes:

* The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a non-profit,
environmental campaigning organisation with offices in London, UK and
Washington, DC.
* The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species is being held in Bangkok,
Thailand, from 2nd to 14th October.
* On Thursday 7th October Committee II of the CITES meeting will discuss the
conservation of Asian Big Cats, including tigers and leopards.

Ashley Misplon
Communications & Press Co-ordinator
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
62/63 Upper Street
London N1 0NY

0207 354 7984 direct line
020 7354 7960 telephone
020 7354 7961 fax

EIA is an independent, international campaigning organisation committed to
investigating and exposing environmental crime.