Wildlife & Biodiversity

124 tigers poached every year for 18 years in Asia: Report

Most of the seizures of tiger body parts occurred in India, finds a report released by TRAFFIC

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Wednesday 21 August 2019

An average of 124 tigers were killed each year between 2000 and 2018, according to a report released by TRAFFIC, an international non-profit working on trade in wild animals and plants. 

In these 18 years, body parts of 2,359 tigers were seized across 32 countries and territories globally, read the report Skin and Bones Unresolved: An Analysis of Tiger seizures from 2000-2018. Most of these seizures occurred in India, the last bastion of the big cat.

“There were a total of 1,142 seizure incidents worldwide. Out of these, 95.1 per cent (or 1,086 incidents) occurred in the 13 Asian tiger range countries, accounting for 2,241 tigers,” according to the report.

“On an average, 60 seizures were recorded annually, which means body parts from almost 124 tigers were seized each year. The top three countries with the highest number of seizure incidents were India (463 or 40.5 per cent of total seizures), China (126 or 11.0 per cent) and Indonesia (119 or 10.5 per cent),” it added.

While these seizures also included parts of other animals — mostly bears and elephants — around 66 per cent were those of tigers. Tiger skin accounted for 40 per cent of the total seized parts (equivalent to 1,099 whole skins).

“Almost 58 tigers are estimated to have been poached for their skins on an average every year. The seizure of whole animals — both live (382) and dead (416) — has seen an upwards trend since 2016. While a total of 798 whole animals (29.0 per cent of the total) were seized over this 19-year period, the proportion seized from just 2016-2018 alone ranged from 44.0 per cent to 73.0 per cent annually,” the report read.

Although the data on conviction isn’t complete, according to the report, at least 1,167 people were arrested in 591 cases. The largest share, more than 38 per cent of people arrested, took place in India.

This was followed by Indonesia and China. At least 259 people were reported to be prosecuted, again largely in China, Indonesia and India. For 17.4 per cent of the people arrested, the analysis highlighted a cumulative imprisonment of 934 years from the reported data.

Experts say the high rate of seizures in India is because of the high population of tigers in the country, along with stringent laws surrounding wildlife crimes. “We have such a good population of tigers in India, more than any other country. So, it is natural that poachers have an eye on the tigers here,” said Tito Joseph of Wildlife Protection Society of India.

“Over the years, especially in the last one-and-a-half decades, the government’s efforts at tiger conservation have also increased and with the setting up of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in 2008, seizures have increased. In fact, poachers like Shabbir Hasan Qureshi and Suraj Pal were caught in the last decade or so,” he added.  

“It is unsurprising that India continues to make the largest number of seizures compared to any other country. India is the world’s largest wild Tiger stronghold with some 56 per cent of the estimated global wild tiger population. So unfortunately, this relative abundance means India becomes a target for poaching and trafficking,” James Compton, Asia Director, TRAFFIC, told Down To Earth. 

“These seizure figures are also indicative of India’s effort on law enforcement, which has led to interdictions of consistently high number of skins and bones over time,” he added.

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