Illicit Trade in Wild Cats Down in Tachilek, Up in Mong La: Report

By The Irrawaddy 22 December 2014

RANGOON — The illegal trade in Tigers and other wild cat parts from Burma into China has grown in the border town of Mong La in the past decade, while the same trade into Thailand through the border town of Tachilek has diminished, a new survey has found.

The report, issued by wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic on Monday, analyzed data from 19 separate surveys of wild cat trade in Tachilek between 1991 and 2013, and seven surveys between 2001 and 2014 in Mong La.

“In Tachilek on the Myanmar-Thailand border, shops selling wild cat parts including Tiger and Leopard skins and skulls, fell from 35 in 2000, to just six in 2013,” Traffic said in a press release. “However, in Mong La, at the China border, such shops more than trebled from six in 2006, to 21 in 2014. Mong La caters almost entirely to customers from China.”

“Most of the cat parts on sale were claws, skulls, canine teeth and skins. In total, over two thousand wild cat parts, the majority of them skins, were recorded during the surveys,” the group said.

Parts of the Clouded Leopard were found most frequently, representing some 482 individuals, while other cat species included Tiger, Leopard, Leopard Cat and the Asiatic Golden Cat, according to Traffic, which said that traders claimed most animals were sourced from Burma and India.

All wild cat species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and by national laws.

“[T]he decrease in Tachilek could be due to greater enforcement action in Thailand while the increase in Mong La may be linked to the rising buying power of China’s consumers, and the apparent ease in smuggling illegal wildlife parts into China from Mong La,” the report said.

“It’s time for the relevant enforcement authorities to live up to their international commitments to address wildlife crime,” said Vincent Nijman, a professor of anthropology at Oxford Brookes University and one of the report’s authors.

Tachilek is located in eastern Shan State and forms Burma’s main border crossing with northern Thailand. Mong La is located on the Burma-China border and administered by the National Democracy Alliance Army, a 2,000-men-strong armed group that is a remnant of the now-defunct Communist Party of Burma. It signed a ceasefire with the central government in 1989 and gained a range of concessions to run the area.

All manner of illegal trade, from prostitution and gambling to narcotics, arms and wildlife trafficking, have long flourished in the rebel-run town, which is part of a wider swathe of territory known as Special Region 4.