CONSERVATION groups say Laos has promised to phase out tiger farms, which could help to curb the illegal trade in the endangered animals’ body parts and protect the depleted population of tigers in Asia.
The groups say Laotian officials made the announcement in South Africa on Friday, one day before the start of a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.
Tiger parts are used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries.
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The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, which works with Laos on tiger protection, is urging other Asian countries with commercial tiger breeding centers to close them.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency says Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese criminal networks are involved in tiger farming and trading.
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) International Policy Vice President Susan Lieberman lauded the Laotian government over the pledge.
“WCS applauds the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) for its announcement today that it is committed to closing facilities that keep and breed tigers for commercial purposes.
“Any commercial tiger farms undermine efforts to halt the illegal trade and protect wild animals by complicating enforcement efforts, and by facilitating the illegal trade in their parts and derivative products, which in turn enhances demand and stimulates trafficking for such items,” she said in a statement.
“Lao PDR’s plans to shut down their tiger farms is needed to enable better enforcement behind protecting these species,” she added
“WCS stands ready to further assist our government partners in Lao PDR as they move forward to with this plan.”
Tiger body parts, including canine teeth, claws, skin pieces, whiskers, bones and even penises are sold as expensive, albeit useless, folk medicines in many Asians countries. Tiger parts are also sold as souvenirs and used in making jewelry.
Additional reporting from The Associated Press