Illegal tiger skin trade in China exposed by investigators

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London, October 24 (ANI): An undercover investigation by the Environment Investigation Agency has exposed the trade in tiger skins in China, which is continuing despite the fact that it is illegal in the country.

According to a report by BBC News, the campaigning group has published its investigation a few days before an international summit on big cat conservation in Kathmandu, Nepal.

It has revealed that the tiger skins are sold as luxury items and are used for clothes and home decor.

The team from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), based in London, UK and Washington DC, US, said that its investigations reveal the trade in big cats still occurs in many parts of the country, including Tibet.

Between July 25 and August 19, 2009, the EIA carried out investigations in markets in five cities in western China.

In just 21 days, the team was offered four full tiger skins, 12 leopard skins, 11 snow leopard skins and two clouded leopard skins as well as associated bones and teeth from the species.

"It's really quite significant," said EIA spokesperson Alasdair Cameron.

"What's interesting is the market has changed. Previously the market was for skins amongst the Tibetan community, that market has largely collapsed and what we're seeing now is skins bought for decoration and taxidermy amongst Chinese businesspeople," he said.

"People are buying them for prestige, skins are very expensive and tend to cost around 20,000 US dollars each," he explained.

"We're also being told skins are being used for non-financial bribery within China, so the demand is increasing outside of the Tibetan areas," he added.

According to the EIA, the animals are being smuggled into China from various places including Tibet, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The team captured the illegal trade on film using a hidden camera while they enquired about animal skins on sale.

What surprised the team was how easy it was to find and purchase the endangered animal products.

"There is some law enforcement in China, in a few regions, but there are whole swathes of the country where this trade is allowed to carry on with almost no fear of detection," Cameron said.

"Some of the places we have been to, skins are openly displayed in shop windows while police cars drive past," he added.

Debbie Banks, lead campaigner of the EIA, said that enough is not being done by the Chinese authorities to combat the trade.

"If China can put a man into space, they can do more to save the wild tiger," she said. (ANI)

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