1. Investing in effective law enforcement
A clear tactic in addressing tiger poaching is to enforce the international laws which outlaw it. Several NGOs and international bodies are trying to do this by supplying rangers with tools and training, so they can catch poachers in the act and prosecute them effectively.
Another approach is to go after the criminal networks that traffic tigers and their parts around the world. The organization behind CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) as well as INTERPOL have projects to infiltrate tiger trafficking gangs, and these projects are supported by several of the major wildlife NGOs.
2. Educating consumers
This is a trickier tactic because the primary buyers of tiger products–elite Chinese–aren’t easily swayed by popular opinion. However, several organizations have invested in media campaigns which have tried to stigmatize tiger consumption, particularly in China. Jackie Chen, in conjunction with WildAid, filmed PSAs on stopping the trade in tiger parts, and the International Federation for Animal Welfare recently ran a print ad in China that tried to appeal to a public sense of humanity to convince people to stop consuming tiger products.
3. Scientific monitoring
Several NGOs and governmental organizations are keeping close tabs on wild tigers by using sophisticated scientific tools to document their stripe patterns (as unique as a finger print), DNA and roaming patterns.
These groups have had success passing this information onto government officials to use in prosecuting poachers. Panthera, is an NGO bankrolled by American millionaire philanthropist Thomas S. Kaplan. Much of their work focuses on monitoring specific tiger populations in countries like India, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand.
4. Closing tiger farms
A particular worry is the rise of tiger farms in China and other Asian countries, where tigers are raised and then killed for their parts. China has by far the most tiger farms, although growth in international captive tigers has also been noted in Laos and Thailand.
While international agreements outlaw trade in tiger parts, China allows for the breeding of some captive-bred endangered species, including tigers, for use in consumer products. This has led to the rise of industrial-size tiger farms, which have grown from housing just 85 tigers in 1993, to more than 5,000 in China today.
The Chinese government allows the trade, claiming that tiger farms are an effective form of tiger conservation. However, the majority of international wildlife experts strongly disagree, arguing that tiger farms in fact increase demand for tiger parts, putting the wild tiger in greater danger.
As the Environmental Investigative Agency writes, it will always be cheaper to kill a tiger in the wild than raise one in captivity. In fact, tiger populations are increasing in India and Nepal, which do not have tiger farms, while wild tigers continue their decline in Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and China, in which tiger farming is legal.
Because tiger farming is legal in a number of Tiger-habitat countries, one of the only things the international community can do is try to pressure countries like China to change—and enforce—its laws.
Several large NGOs as well as smaller civic society groups in China are pressing the Chinese government to come into compliance with international recommendations on destroying stockpiles of tiger parts and phasing out tiger farms. But clearly there is still a lot of work to do as China’s tiger farms continue to flourish.