Russia May Finally Correct A Legal Loophole That Lets Tiger Poachers Go Free
The hunting of Siberian tigers has been illegal in Russia since the 1920’s, when it was discovered that the entire population of the tiger subspecies had dwindled to fewer than 40 individuals, all of them living in the Amur region, a narrow strip along the coast of the Russian Far East. The belated conservation effort was nonetheless successful, and the Siberian, or Amur, tiger has rebounded to a current population of between 400 and 500.
However, during the past decade, the world’s largest tiger has faced renewed threats in the form of habitat degradation brought about by logging and development, as well as illegal hunting that has been spurred by rising demand for tiger skins and other tiger parts in China, Vietnam and other Asian countries. Tiger body parts are used to make folk medicines in some parts of Asia.
According to the International Anti-Poaching organization, TRAFFIC, anti-poaching laws in Russia currently are undermined by a huge loophole: While it is forbidden to kill tigers, possession of a dead tiger or its parts has not been illegal. Because of this, many a tiger poacher has gotten away with little or no punishment by claiming that, rather than having killed the tiger found in his home or vehicle, he found an animal that was already dead.
According to TRAFFIC, the government of the Russian Federation has agreed to close the loophole by making it illegal to possess tigers or their parts.
Several subspecies of tiger have already gone extinct. Worldwide, there may be as few as 3,200 of the big cats remaining in the wild.