Connect with us


Skin and Bones: Tiger Trafficking Analysis from January 2000–June 2022




Overall, whole tigers, dead and alive, as well as a variety of tiger parts amounting to a conservative estimate of 3,377 tigers were confiscated between January 2000 and June 2022 from 50 countries and territories, with data showing a upward trend.

According Skin and bones: analysis of tiger trafficking from January 2000 to June 2022tigers and their parts were seized in 2,205 incidents, mostly in the 13 Tiger Range Countries (TRCs).

India, home to more than half of the world’s wild tiger population, remains the top-ranked country with the most incidents and number of confiscated tigers.

The evidence clearly shows that poaching and illegal trade are not temporary threats. Unless we want to see wild tigers wiped out in our lifetime, immediate and time-limited actions must be a priority.

Kanitha Krishnasamy, co-author of the report and director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia

2022 raises concerns

Data from the first half of 2022, the Year of the Tiger, stood out for several reasons: Indonesia, Thailand and Russia recorded significant increases in the number of seizures compared to the January to June period of the two decades previous ones.

This recent period has also been particularly significant for Indonesia, home to the critically endangered Sumatran tiger. It has already seized more tigers in the first half of 2022 (18 tigers) compared to all confiscations in 2021 (totaling 16 tigers).

This is a worrying development for the critically endangered tiger and a cautionary tale for all tiger subspecies. There has never been greater urgency to step up the fight against wildlife crime across all range states.”

Co-Author and Senior Wildlife Crime Analyst Ramacandra Wong

Efforts to protect tigers have been undermined by challenges over the years, including organized crime linked to poaching and illegal trade and consumption. While increased survey coverage and improved protection on the ground in selected locations have shown a higher wild tiger population – 4,500 animals worldwide currently, compared to a previous tally of 3,900 in 2016 – the increase does not apply to the entire range.

Southeast Asia under surveillance

Southeast Asian TRCs, in particular, are struggling to protect their remaining wild tiger populations while grappling with other trade issues, including captive facilities that fuel the illegal trade.

Thailand and Viet Nam topped the list, with 81% and 67% of tigers seized in the respective countries suspected or confirmed to involve captive tigers.

Viet Nam stands out again for having recorded a 185% increase in the number of confiscated tigers during the period 2018-2021 compared to the previous four years. With only a handful of wild tigers remaining, Viet Nam’s seizures indicate illegal sourcing from overseas, captive facilities, or both.

TRAFFIC’s online market monitoring in six Southeast Asian countries has provided insight into a robust trade in tiger parts. There were 675 social media profiles on Facebook engaged in selling tiger products, mostly accounts in Viet Nam. The analysis also revealed strong links between traders offering tiger products and those touting ivory, bear horn and rhino products.

Seized goods

Tiger skins are among the wildlife parts seized in the 2018 Malaysian seizure in Kuala Lipis, Pahang. Picture: Elizabeth John

In the nearly 23 years covered by the study, tiger skins remained the most frequently seized item, found in 902 incidents, followed by whole tigers (608 incidents) and tiger bones (411 incidents).

However, the frequency of whole tigers in seizures increased in the first six months of 2022 compared to recent years, found in 39% of seizures. Seizures of tiger teeth and claws have also gained prominence in recent years.

“The thousands of tiger parts seized are a testament to law enforcement efforts, but they are also a testament to the ongoing threats that tigers face. Poaching, trade and demand for tigers and their parts persist, compounded by tiger farms that add to the illegal trade Strong Governments must act to address the pressure this is putting on wild tiger populations,” said Heather Sohl, Tiger Trade Officer at WWF’s Tigers Alive initiative.

The report, launched before CITES CoP 19, is one of TRAFFIC’s priorities where the fate of tigers and other big cats will be at the center of discussions.

The authors of this report, aligned with TRAFFIC’s position, urged CITES Parties to fully implement Resolution Conf. 12.5 (Rev. CoP18) on Asian big cats and associated CoP Decisions, which recommends a series of actions covering improved legislation, enforcement, record keeping and actions to prevent tiger parts and
products derived from captive breeding facilities from entering the illegal trade chain.