Illegal Trade in Large Cat Parts Growing
A recent survey finds that in two border towns in Myanmar the number of parts of endangered large cats openly for sale has increased in recent years. This is a direct threat to conservation efforts.
Tachilek sits on the border of Myanmar and Thailand, while Mong La borders China. While trade to Thailand decreased over the survey, the trade to China increased significantly, increasing the overall trade.
The survey found that between 2001–2014 the most common species in trade was the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa (482 individuals), followed by leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis (458 individuals), leopard Panthera pardus (344), tiger P. tigris (207 individuals) and Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temmincki (135 individuals).
The demand for tiger bones, and indeed every part of the tiger, is largely driven by Traditional Chinese Medicine, where tigers are believed to have magical powers and their parts are consumed in order to absorb their life force.
There are other forces behind the trade in animals parts, such as skins and tusks, and these are also on the rise in these border towns. However, pseudoscience and superstition are literally driving the tiger to extinction by creating a demand for their body parts.
Greater regulation and enforcement in Myanmar and China is necessary to reduce the trade in illegal animal parts and reduce the threat to these endangered species.