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12 Nov, 2018

Indonesians fear China’s lifting of tiger bone ban will increase killing of Sumatran tigers

Jakarta (ANTARA News)

In response to the move, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued a statement in Beijing on October 29, 2018, expressing its profound concern over China`s announcement on the same day that it has legalized the use of tiger bones and rhino horns from captive-bred animals by hospitals and domestic trade in antique tiger and rhino products.

 A Sumatran tiger (panthera tigris sumatreae) is caught in a hidden camera in Batang Gadis National Park, North Sumatra. (Conservation International)

“It is deeply concerning that China has reversed its 25-year-old tiger bone and rhino horn ban, allowing a trade that will have devastating consequences globally,” Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader, affirmed.

A similar concern was voiced by Greenpeace Africa`s Senior Political Advisor Fredrick Njehu, saying that China`s decision to reopen trade of rhino horns and tiger bones will not only reactivate the demand for rhino products but will also contribute to a rise in poaching and other illegal activities

WWF and Greenpeace Africa urgently call on China to not only maintain their 1993 ban on tiger bone and rhino horn trade but to also extend it to cover trade in all tiger parts and products, regardless of whether they are from captive-bred or wild animals.

An Indonesian environmentalist has also expressed his concern over China`s decision to legalize tiger bone use for medicines, as it has the potential to trigger the poaching of Sumatran tigers.

“For us, this is a regress and leads to bad impacts on conservation efforts in countries having wildlife. China has been viewed as an illegal importer and export destination of protected wildlife so far,” Osmantri, coordinator of the Wildlife Crime Team, a working unit of the WWF program in Central Sumatra, stated in Pekanbaru, Riau, recently.

An endemic animal of Sumatra, the Sumatran tiger, or panthera tigris sumatrea, is protected by laws as the animal is on the brink of extinction.

Its population is estimated at some 400 in the wild, and one-third of them are in Riau Province, Sumatra Island.

When China agreed to ban the trade of protected animal parts, the demand in the illegal market remained, and the illegal trade involved an international trafficking syndicate, he noted.

Osmantri expressed concern that the demand would be higher, as China would legalize the trade of rhino horns and tiger bones.

The policy will encourage poachers to provide supplies to meet the demands, he added.

The external factor will hinder the conservation efforts of the Indonesian government that has, so far, been progressive in halting wildlife trafficking, he remarked.

Having bountiful natural resources and biodiversity, Indonesia has become a source and destination for wildlife trade. Based on a data by WWF-Indonesia, 85 percent of the traded animals came from nature and resulted from illegal hunting.

“Under special circumstances, trading or using of tiger bone, rhino horn, or any products containing them should apply for permission,” China had announced on October 29, 2018.

Conservationists sounded the alarm over China`s decision, despite its restrictions on the sourcing and use of the products.

Osmantri urged the Indonesian government to remain in synergy with other countries that have ratified the Cites Convention to pressurize China into canceling its decision to legalize rhino horn and tiger bone usage.

He lauded the government`s measures to strengthen legal enforcement against wildlife poaching and trafficking, particularly in Riau, over the past two years.

“Riau is prone because wildlife could be easily smuggled overseas via rivers and sea,” he revealed.

In 2016, two people were jailed for four years each for trading tiger skins. The cases were handled by the Riau Police in cooperation with the local natural resources conservation offices of Riau and Jambi.

In 2017, two people were also arrested and jailed for four years each for trading tiger skin and bone in Riau, while in Jambi, two people were imprisoned for eight months for the trade of tiger skin.

In February 2018, two tiger skin traders were jailed for two years in Jambi.

Three Sumatran tigers were killed in Jambi and two in Riau in 2015 due to human-tiger conflicts.

In 2016, four tigers were killed in Jambi and one in Riau, while three tigers were killed in Riau in 2017, and four tigers were killed in 2018.

The latest case was the death of a pregnant tigress with two fetuses in its womb. The Sumatran tigress, estimated to be four years old, was found dead in a snare in the border area of Muara Lembu Village and Pangkalan Indarung, Kuantan Singingi District, on September 26, 2018. The perpetrator has been jailed in Pekanbaru, Riau.

In addition to the Sumatran tiger, Indonesia`s forest is also home to two species of rhinoceros: one-horned Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).

The Javan and Sumatran rhinos are two out of only five species of rhinos that have survived globally.

The remaining three species are the Indian rhino, which can be found in Nepal, India, and Bhutan; the White rhino, commonly found in Botswana, the Ivory Coast, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the Black rhino in Cameron, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana.

According to WWF, the Javan rhino is probably the rarest among large mammals on the planet, with no more than 50 left in the wild and none in captivity.

The Sumatran rhino is also critically endangered due to its rapid rate of decline. Being called the “hairy rhino” due to its hairy body and tufted ears, the Sumatran rhino is the smallest and last form of the two-horned rhino in Asia that has lived on the planet for 20 million years.

It is believed that approximately 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in very small and highly fragmented populations across Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia.

Editing by Rahmad Nasution

Editor: Heru Purwanto