SPECIES SURVIVAL NETWORK NOW URGES COMMITMENT TO SAVING THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES
Washington, DC-The Species Survival Network, a global coalition of wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations (www.ssn.org), applauds China’s decision to include imperiled species such as the giant panda and Tibetan antelope in their selection of the “Five Friendlies” mascots for the 2008 Olympic Games. “The selection of these species, so dangerously at risk of extinction in the wild, however, is somewhat ironic in that China continues to be a major consumer of wildlife parts and products from across the globe,” noted Will Travers, SSN President. “Today we call on the Chinese government to make a firm commitment to reduce its wildlife consumption nationwide.”
To its credit, China has stepped up anti-poaching patrols and awareness campaigns in recent years to save the Tibetan antelope, also known as “chiru.” The international illegal trade in the animals’ wool, “shahtoosh,” has led to a steep decline in the population found across the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, from an estimated 2 million at the turn of the century to around 75,000 today.
“Unfortunately,” lamented Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency and Chair of the SSN Big Cats Working Group, “this enforcement commitment has not extended to all species including tigers and other big cats, whose skins are smuggled across borders with India and Nepal and openly sold and worn in Western China.” New information suggests that China is working to reopen the trade in tiger bone. “Such a move would send out the wrong signal to consumers and to the criminal networks engaged in the trade, fuelling further poaching in the wild,” Banks added.
Similarly, China continues to be a major consumer of bear parts including bile, gallbladders and paws. While the “friendly” panda mascot is not implicated in this commercial industry, nearly 10,000 bears including the highly endangered Asiatic black bear languish in tiny cages across China, perpetually “milked” of their bile. “The panda may be the symbol of China and its Olympics, but the fact that black bears are cruelly confined in the country and poached worldwide for their parts continues to be a blight on the Chinese government,” declared Adam Roberts, Vice President of Born Free USA and Chair of the SSN Bear Working Group. “We call on China to take immediate steps to make bear farming history.”
Despite a global ban on the trade in elephant ivory since 1989, Asia also remains a major market for ivory, with China being perhaps the biggest link in the chain when it comes to this illegal trade. Seizures of illegal ivory in China are vast, with individual seizures often weighing over a tonne. “The Asian demand for ivory is having an enormous impact on the poaching of elephants,” notes Shelley Petch of the Born Free Foundation and Chair of the SSN Elephant Working Group. “Vulnerable elephant populations in West and Central Africa are being hit particularly hard by unrelenting demand. Between 2003 and 2004, a single National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo lost 1,000 of its rare forest elephants.”
The Species Survival Network urges the press to depict China’s role in the wildlife trade accurately when it reports on the 2008 Olympic mascots. These “Five Friendlies” must be symbols of the need to conserve wild animals for future generations and bring immediate attention, resources, and efforts to address the pressing plight of threatened and endangered species across the globe.
- Further information can be found at www.ssn.org
The Species Survival Network (SSN), founded in 1992, is an international coalition of over eighty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Through scientific and legal research, education and advocacy, the SSN is working to prevent over-exploitation of animals and plants due to international trade.
- Tigers There are fewer than 5000 wild tigers worldwide and poaching for demand in China is bringing them perilously close to extinction. There is an urgent need for targeted and cooperative enforcement between China and India to crack down on the trafficking of skins.
- Bears In farms across China endangered Asiatic Black Bears (Moon Bears) are imprisoned for up to 22 years in tiny metal cages no bigger than their own bodies. These bears are milked daily for their bile through rusting metal, or latex catheters implanted deep into their gall bladders, or via permanently open, infected holes in their abdomens, through which bile weeps – known as the “free dripping” technique. The bears live a life of torture before dying agonizingly slowly as a result of chronic infection. In many cases the bears are missing limbs as a result of being caught in the wild, or have paw tips and canine teeth brutally cut back in order to take away their defenses and make them easier to “milk” on the farms. Many also wear “full metal jackets”, weighing 10 kgs or more, to cover the infected and weeping wound in their abdomen.
- Elephants Research into the Chinese ivory markets (Martin and Stiles, 2003) revealed China to be a major ivory manufacturing centre in Asia – surpassing Hong Kong and Japan. Martin and Stiles additionally saw 9,096 ivory items in 117 different outlets. Examples of Chinese seizures:
- 3,334.6 kg seized in Shanghai, August 2002
- 2,613.5kg seized in Shangdong, May 2001
- 2,446kg seized Hong Kong, 2003
- Further information can be found at www.ssn.org