Photo from Xinhua
A post on the Guardian’s Environment Blog today laments over Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s weak showing at the unprecedented International Tiger Forum happening in Russia this week. Contrasting him with Russian president Vladimir Putin (the environmentalist’s Rambo who shoots at whales with crossbows and traps polar bears, all in the pursuit of science!) Wen appears not only timid but apathetic:
Premier Wen was the only one of the five national leaders at the summit who did not deign to attend the “press conference” (where no questions were allowed). In the summit, he stressed the need for greater enforcement. “All countries should crack down on poaching and illegal trade of tigers,” he said. For conservationists, it was a disappointingly vague statement from the country that drives the main demand for tiger products.
The four-day summit taking place in St. Petersburg is the first of its kind, being held symbolically and deliberately during the Chinese year of the Tiger. The high profile event has gathered 13 global leaders (and Leonardo DiCaprio! OMG!) in an effort to lay out concrete plans for preservation of the 3,200 tigers left in the wild.
Not surprisingly, what the conservationists call “vague”, Xinhua News calls “a comprehensive prescription for the issue.” In fact, Xinhua’s entire take on the meeting makes it sound more like Wen was chiding the rest of the international community, not the other way around:
…the first priority is to actively curb excessive human activities and work for harmony between human development and natural ecological systems.
This requires relevant parties to change their modes of economic development and the lifestyles of local residents, and enhance environmental protection, he added.
Meanwhile, Wen stressed, the parties should seek proper ways to sustain the livelihood of those living in tiger habitats so that they would support and take part in tiger conservation programs.
To make the efforts effective, it is also necessary to beef up international cooperation in the crackdown on poaching as well as illegal trade in tiger body parts, he said.
Yeah, the trade in tiger body parts that centers in China and is largely blamed for the majority of global tiger poaching. Although the government banned the trade back in 1993 and removed tiger parts from the list of accepted Chinese traditional medicines, they are still sold illegally as aphrodisiacs and as a cure for rheumatism, not to mention super expensive tiger bone wine.
Wen claimed that due to a package of administrative and legislative projects rolled out in Beijing, “China has seen remarkable recovery and improvement of its tiger habitats and a steady growth of its tiger population.” Let’s hope he’s referring to the natural habitats where China’s estimated 50 remaining wild tigers live, and not the exotic animal farms and zoos that have seen repeated and horrific scandals over the past year.