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Death knell for the tiger: Don't leaglise trade
Legalising trade in tiger parts will sound the death knell of the magnificent beast, which is on the brink of extinction. Global efforts are the need of the hour to save the species from going into oblivion.
THE LEGALISING of the tiger parts trade in China could be the death sentence for the big cat, and the species could well be extinct in the next few years.
The herd of swamp deer grazes silently on the edge of the river ignorant of the danger they are in. The tiger has been stalking them patiently for hours and is neatly camouflaged. When he is within the range, the master hunter prepares to strike. He rises out of the tall swamp grass and picks his prey. The tiger streaks into the herd of deer as a single shot rings and shatters the silence. The tiger has fallen dead. The hunter has become the hunted.
Quiet a usual site in our country. In the year 1900, India was home to about 40,000 Royal Bengal Tigers. But now this figure is hovering around the 1200 mark just enough for them to be considered almost an extinct species and highly endangered. The rapid disappearance of the tiger had recently been attributed to habitat loss. It has now become clear that the tiger faces an even greater threat from poachers.
The Project Tiger was launched under former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s tutelage but since then the numbers of tigers have been dwindling. But yet, in India it is estimated that the tiger is being poached at the rate of one per day. At this rate the wild tiger in India will suffer the same fate as its cousins in the Far East from China and will disappear within the next few years unless strict measures are taken up to save the species.
The Chinese government had banned the trading of tiger parts in 1993 but the harsh realities are that this trading has been going on surreptitiously. But, the easing of the ban on the Tiger parts in China is sure to sound the death knell for the species not just in China but also in India. The owners of the "tiger farms" in China are pushing for legalising trade of products from these facilities, which now house 4,000 tigers. China, Japan, Korea constitute the largest consumer base for tiger parts trading.
Overturning the ban and allowing trade in captive-bred tiger products would
waste all the efforts invested in saving wild tigers. It would be a catastrophe for tiger conservation. Tiger parts trading in China involves parts of the Royal Bengal tiger, the Siberian tiger, Sumatra Tiger as well as other prominent species of the big cat.
But what is it in the tiger that makes it the most sought after animal? The trade in tiger parts is a million dollar business. The bones of the tiger are used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure Rheumatic Arthritis and other ailments. The tiger soup is considered to be a culinary delicacy costing up to $150 a bowl. The skin, the heart and every other part of the tiger is used for some or other cure. This international demand for tiger bones and parts for use in oriental medicine has brought the species to the brink of extinction. There were tens of thousands of big cats in the wild just 20 years ago, but poaching and the loss of their natural habitat has seen their numbers dwindle to around 3,000 worldwide, and it is feared the wild tiger could become extinct. Attempts to eradicate the black market
by cracking down on poachers and banning products made from tiger parts have failed, especially in China.
In just the past eight years, about 650 kilograms of tiger parts and bones were seized from China, India and Nepal, destined for use in China. The contraband tiger parts are smuggled by well-organised networks, which also trade in rhino horns and other rare animal parts for use in Chinese medicine.
Legalising tiger trade would lead to a huge rise in demand for tiger parts, which would result in more poaching in our country, which is struggling to save its big cats, because it is cheaper to kill a wild animal than to raise a tiger on a farm. The Chinese have raised about 5000 tigers on privately owned farms and these owners want to recover the money that they have used in the setting up of these farms, thus they are continually applying pressure at the Chinese government to legalise this trade.
Saving the Tiger would not just help us to save this species but would mean saving the forest. The tiger thus is the symbol for the protection of all species on our earth since it is at the top of the food chain. This is why we call the tiger, an apex predator, an indicator of our ecosystem’s health. We don’t want our children to be reading about the tiger that used to exist.
The tiger perhaps the most formidable but yet most beautiful animal of all, needs to be protected. 
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