There are less than 3,000 tigers left in the world, but that doesn’t matter in Mong La, a Myanmar town where tiger parts are big business. A new study based on two decades of data shows that tiger numbers are a mere five percent of what they were 100 years ago. Mong La borders China, and Chinese tourists can travel there to buy parts of tigers and other wild cats, like clouded leopards, as a delicacy and for medicinal purposes.

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The town, according to the journal Biological Conservation, is emerging as a “major wildlife market in the region for products from as far away as Africa,” according to the BBC. In another Burmese town, however, the wildlife products trade has fallen. This is likely due to more enforcement in Thailand, Chris Shepherd of international wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic said.

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Although Myanmar and China have banned trade of tiger and leopard parts, the law is not working in Mong La. Because China is not increasing their enforcement action, towns like Mong La are increasing their product availability. Mong La is also run by an armed group and local authorities apparently have no control over how the town is run. “Many of the products, particularly wildlife meat and tiger bone wine, don’t enter China but are consumed in Mong La by Chinese tourists,” says the World Wildlife Fund’s Thomas Grey, in the Greater Mekong area.

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Grey says greater enforcement at the border is required so tourists do not bring skins and other products back into China. Surveys between 1991 and 2014 in Tachilek and Mong La report over 2000 wild cat parts, mostly skins, but also claws, skulls and teeth. Tiger bone wine and cat meat are commonly consumed in Mong La by tourists as well.

Via BBC News

Photos by Flickr/catlovers and Flickr/Ross Elliott