- Date: May 27, 2008
On 27 May 2008, Primorskii regional court handed out its verdict in the trial of three Russian and three Chinese individuals charged with trafficking Amur tiger body parts and 480 bear paws, for which they had tried to pass to China in August 2007.
All six smugglers from the international criminal group were found guilty on crimes as provided by the Criminal Code of Russian Federation and sentenced to imprisonment. The most active members of the group were sentenced to 8 years in jail and were fined 200,000 rubles each (US $8,500 dollars)
The prosecution was a result of several months work by WWF, TRAFFIC, and our local partners in China and Russia. Both WWF and TRAFFIC staff served as expert witnesses during the trial. 900 bear paws of brown and black bears, 4 tiger skins, 531 saiga horns, and more than 60 kilos of tiger bones had been seized. The value of these products was estimated at $200,000.
Background to the case
In January 2007 a group of first-time smugglers were caught by police on the road to Khorol village in Primorye. The car carrying the six smugglers was loaded with wildlife body parts including 8 bags of bear paws, 3 tiger skins, several threatened antelope horns and various fragments of different animals’ carcasses.
A second episode occurred in March 2007. Smugglers packed cargo on sledges to be transported with snow mobiles across the frozen Khanka Lake to China. A seizure operation was held at night, the sledges with the cargo were confiscated, but the criminals managed to leave the site on snow mobiles. This seizure brought 120 bear paws.
The organizer of both failed smuggling operations was the same individual, a Chinese citizen known for trading animal parts all across the Amur region. Following the two failed attempts, a 'special order' was placed for tiger skin and tiger bones. Undercover poachers and smugglers were put in place for the big order of bear paws. Thanks to some good weather, a great plan, and a little bit of luck the seizure operation took just several minutes and all accomplices were caught barehanded.
There are less than 500 tigers left in the Amur and poaching is the most serious threat for tigers, whose bones are used in traditional medicine in China and skins as a status symbol for the rich
WWF supports vigorous anti-poaching efforts and is also part of an effort to establish a region-wide Econet, an ecological network of protected areas that will become a connected habitat for the tiger. Recently, the tracks of two cubs and a female tiger were discovered 400 miles northwest of their core range, indicating tigers are breeding and exploring new habitat.
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