Endangered Sumatran tiger body parts sold openly in Indonesia

( dpa ) - Hides and bones of endangered Sumatran tigers are sold openly in Indonesia for traditional medicines and jewelry, an environmental group said in a report published Wednesday.

The Britain-based wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC, said tiger body parts, including canine teeth, claws, fur, whiskers and bones were on sale in 10 percent of the 326 retail outlets surveyed during 2006 in 28 cities and towns across Sumatra,

Based on the number of teeth on sale, the group estimated that 23 tigers were killed to supply the products sold by goldsmiths, souvenir and antique shops and traditional Chinese pharmacies.

The number declined the group's previous survey in 1999-2002, when estimated 52 tigers were killed.

"Sadly, the decline in availability appears to be due to the dwindling number of tigers left in the wild," said Julia Ng, TRAFFIC's program officer for South-East Asia.

All of TRAFFIC's surveys indicated that Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, and Pancur Batu, about 15 kilometres away, are the main hubs for the trade in tiger parts.

The population of the Sumatra tiger, or Panthera tigris sumatrae, is estimated to be less than 500, Ng said. It is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union's list of the world's most-threatened species.

"Successive surveys continue to show that Sumatran tigers are being sold body part by body part into extinction", said Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF International's Species Programme.

"This is an enforcement crisis," Lieberman said. "If Indonesian authorities need enforcement help from the international community they should ask for it. If not, they should demonstrate they are taking enforcement seriously."

Tonny Soehartono, director for biodiversity conservation at the Indonesian ministry of forestry, said efforts were being made to deal with the illgal wildlife trade.

"We have to deal with the trade. Currently we are facing many other crucial problems which, unfortunately, are causing the decline of Sumatran Tiger populations," Soehartono said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged a 10-year effort to protect the Sumatran tiger during last year's conference on climate change in Bali Island.

Sumatra's remaining few tigers are also under threat from rampant deforestation by the pulp and paper and palm oil industries. The report warned that "unless tackled immediately," the combined threats of habitat loss and illegal trade will be the "death knell" for Indonesian tigers.

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