More than 1000 tigers have been reduced to skin and bone in continued illegal trade over the last decade according to Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring organisation.
Their report was released on the eve of a tiger summit to be hosted by Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg next week which will be attended by representatives from all tiger range countries.
With only 3200 of the iconic cats remaining in the wild, the Global Tiger Recovery Programme aims to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger.
The remains of between 1069 and 1220 tigers were seized in 11 of the 13 tiger range countries. That's an average of over 100 a year, more than half from India. Pauline Verkeij a joint Traffic and WWF Tiger Trade Programme manager said, "Half the world's tigers live in India, so it's no real surprise that the country has the highest seizures."
This could reflect either high levels of trade or effective enforcement or both. "Either way the country's tigers are under severe poaching pressure. One can only speculate the true numbers of animals plundered for their body parts." Clearly these rates of poaching are unsustainable.
Since many seizures of illegally traded tiger parts take place within 50km of protected tiger areas, the support, involvement and commitment of locals to tiger conservation will be vital if these glorious cats are to be saved from extinction. Locals must have a economic stake in ensuring that poaching does not take place in their areas.
But governments must also ensure that prosecutions are swift, sentencing an adequate deterrent, and that critical habitat is protected from destruction.
Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio has teamed with WWF in a campaign Save Tigers Now, "Tigers are endangered and critical to some of the world's most important ecosystems," said DiCaprio. "Key conservation efforts can save the tiger species from extinction, protect some of the planet's last wild habitats and help sustain the local communities surrounding them. By protecting this iconic species, we can save so much more."
Ultimately though, it is only when demand for tiger parts is reduced in key markets like China that the efforts of enforcement officials on the ground will bear fruit in advancing tiger conservation to the ambitious 2022 target of over 6,000 wild animals.