12/22/2014, 00.00

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Growing illegal tiger and wild cat trade from Myanmar to China

A recent report shows a spike in trade near the Burmese town of Mong La. In the past eight years, the number of shops selling animal part products has jumped more than threefold. About 80 per cent of the parts are from tigers, which is on the endangered species list. Only 5 per cent the population is left compared to a century ago.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The trade in tiger and other wild cat parts from Myanmar into China has grown in recent years, this according to a new report based on two decades of survey data.

The study indicates that Mong La, a Burmese town bordering China, is the trade's hub. Here shops selling animal parts have more than trebled in the past eight years.

Tiger parts were reported in 80 per cent of the surveys, the study found, representing at least 200 tigers. The most common parts were from clouded leopards, for a total of 480 animals.

The findings, published in the journal Biological Conservation, back past claims that the town was becoming as a major wildlife market in the region for products from as far away as Africa.

At the same time, they suggest that in another Burmese town, Tachilek, on the border with Thailand, there has been a fall in the illegal trade, due, experts note, to greater enforcement action in Thailand.

The same cannot be said about the Sino-Burmese border, where enforcement is very lax, favouring the illegal trade.

Burma has signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and has banned the sale of body parts from tigers and wild cats. However, it has failed to enforce the convention in Mong La.

The aforementioned report also found that over 2,000 wild cat parts - mostly skins - were sold. Other products included tigers and leopards' claws, skulls, and teeth. In Chinese tradition, these products have medicinal value or aphrodisiac properties.

Despite growing international concern, poaching of tigers has continued: now only some 3,000 animals are left in the world, about 5 per cent of what the population was a century ago, making it one of the most endangered species in the world.

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