The World Wildlife Fund said recently that at least 19 Siberian (Amur) tigers were killed by poachers in Russia since 2012. Body parts and skeletons of 19 dead tigers were discovered during seven criminal investigations by Russian authorities.
There are only several hundred Amur tigers remaining in the wild, and most live in Russia’s Far East. Habitat destruction from logging and some development has reduced their historic range. Additionally, human activities such as poaching have contributed to their status as critically endangered. Poaching is driven by demand for tiger bones and other body parts for use in Chinese ‘medicine’ which is sometimes nothing more than superstition. In other words, consuming tiger parts has never been scientifically proven to have any medical benefits whatsoever. Even so, tiger body parts in China may sell for very large amounts of money. This situation is tragic for tigers, because they are killed for no good reason, and for consumers who waste their money on products that can’t ever improve their health.
Making punishments of crimes like poaching and trading of tiger body parts might help reduce the number of tigers that are killed, but it could also create a false sense of progress. Criminals may continue to be just as motivated to kill them, because the rewards created by Chinese buyers remain at a high level.
The main issue is economic demand. If that could be addressed from the point of view of helping consumers understand that by buying products containing tiger body parts they are wasting their money, they might start to purchase them less or stop completely.
Of course, conservation measures and punishing poachers are important too. On the legal side, it is fortunate that Vladimir Putin is a supporter of tigers and enjoys the outdoors, though he is also a hunter.