Trade, transportation and possession of endangered species will all be considered crimes under new legislation proposed by the Kremlin, following discussions with WWF.
Tiger hunting is considered by many to be the biggest single factor in the decline of tigers this century – resulting in the world losing 97 per cent of its wild tigers, including four entire sub-species which have been driven to extinction. It is estimated that there may be as few as 3,200 of the endangered animals now remaining in the wild.
Unfortunately, until now, law in the Russian Federation, home to many of the world’s remaining tigers, only considered the actual killing of an animal to be a crime. Poachers who have been apprehended carrying the animals, or their parts, have attempted to avoid punishment by claiming they had found the animals already deceased.
“This new development is a significant step towards protection of tigers and other endangered species threatened by trade and poaching,” said Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF Russia, who was heavily involved in negotiations on the issue with the government. Russia has agreed for its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to prepare the draft law in close cooperation with WWF.
Indicative of the problem, a man who was recently found in possession of the remains of six tigers, and another with eight tiger skins, might only be be eligible for an insignificant fine under the current law.
WWF and its partner wildlife monitoring organization TRAFFIC, are currently conducting a global campaign aimed at achieving greater protection for tigers and other major threatened species, such as rhinos and elephants.
Demand for ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations of these species dangerously close to extinction. WWF is calling on governments to combat illegal wildlife trade and reduce demand for endangered species products.
“Elevating trade, transportation and possession of endangered species to a serious crime is a long-awaited measure that we believe will dramatically reduce poaching,” said Mr Chestin, who also added that WWF is also happy to see steps being made towards increased protection for tiger habitats.
The Primorsky region, where 90 per cent of the Russian tigers live, wasidentified and promoted as one location where no commercial timber harvest should take place in its regional protected areas and nut harvesting zones. The regional administration was also ordered to prevent any commercial logging in the upper and middle stream sections of the Bikin River.
By the 1940s, hunting had driven the Amur tiger to the brink of extinction – with no more than 40 individuals remaining in the wild.
The subspecies was saved when Russia became the first country in the world to grant the tiger full protection.
By the 1980s, the Amur tiger population had increased to around 500. Continued conservation and antipoaching efforts by many partners – including WWF – have helped keep the population stable at around 400 individuals. In 2010, the Russian Government adopted the Strategy for Tiger Conservation, making commitments to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 and to stiffen punishment for those caught smuggling tiger products.