Conservation groups welcome intention of Laos to phase out tiger farms

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Laos has friday formally announced its intention to phase out controversial tiger farm operations.

The announcement was made during the 67th Meeting of the Standing Committee to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tiger farms and captive tiger facilities in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and, especially, China have long been a source of tiger skins, bones, teeth and claws – a trade which perpetuates the desirability of tiger products, adding intolerable pressure to the world’s remaining wild tiger populations.

Investigations by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Education for Nature Vietnam and Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand have documented how weak legislation, poor enforcement capacity and cooperation, have enabled Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese criminal networks engaged in tiger farming and trade to operate with impunity.

A series of recommendations from the CITES Secretariat at this meeting call for urgent measures to improve the law enforcement and criminal justice response to illegal wildlife trade in Laos.

The Secretariat notes special concern at the lack of enforcement in areas such as the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone.

The statement by H.E. Mr Sommad Pholsena, Laos Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, that it was “looking for ways to phase out tiger farms” signals a shift, but there is much to be done to convert words in to action.

Debbie Banks, Head of EIA’s Tiger Campaign, said: “If the Minister invites international technical experts to assist with an audit of tigers and facilities and the development of a phase-out plan, it would put Laos streets ahead in implementing CITES measures to end tiger farming.

“All eyes now are on China, Thailand, Vietnam and other countries with tiger farms – Will they follow suit and finally commit to ending tiger farming?”