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Storage and transportation of tiger skins will become a crime

04 march 2013
On March 2, President Vladimir Putin introduced a bill to the State Duma that will impose a tougher punishment for poaching and trafficking of endangered animals.

The goal of the bill is to increase prosecution of poaching and trafficking, including storage, transportation, and trade of wild animals, including Amur tigers, leopards, and other rare and endangered species in the wild.

The decision to develop the bill was taken at a meeting on tiger conservation on October 22 2012. It was presided by Sergei Ivanov, the Chief of Staff of the Office of the President. WWF experts, who participated in the event, stressed that, despite the high profile given to the tiger conservation by the President of the Russian Federation, not a single poacher detained in the recent years received the deserved punishment. The maximum punishment for trade of tiger skins or other derivatives is a fine of 2,500 rubles (about 80 US dollars), while transportation and storage are not considered a violation at all.

In accordance with decisions made after the meeting, WWF developed proposals for the new bill. Together with proposals of the Ministry of natural resources and ecology, they formed the basisof the document submitted to the State Duma.

The bill proposes to introduce administrative responsibility for the storage and transportation of all species of animals or plants listed in the Red Book of Russia. In addition, poaching and trafficking (including keeping, purchase, storage, transportation, mailing and sale) of especially valuable wild animals will be classified as a crime.

“Especially valuable wild animals” will include such species as Amur tiger, Far-Eastern leopard, and polar bear. Usually, they are the most desired object of poaching. According to the Administration of the President, from 30 to 50 Amur tigers are poached in Russia every year. From 1,000 to 1,200 of birds of prey – such as gyrfalcon, saker falcon, and peregrine falcon, - are killed illegally annually.  

The draft federal law also criminalizes the smuggling of valuable wildlife and water resources, as well as parts and derivatives, regardless of the value of goods. Now only smugglers who are caught on shipment of rare animals worth more than 1 million rubles are prosecuted as criminals. At the same time, according to the Russian legislation, the damage from killing a tiger is half a million rubles. If, for example, a smuggler is caught with odd derivatives (parts of captured animals), it is difficult to estimate the cost of the shipment, and, therefore, initiate a criminal investigation. The new bill will close this gap.

We have insisted on tougher punishment for trafficking of endangered species for almost 15 years”, says Igor Chestin, WWF-Russia CEO. “The proposed bill closes a giant loophole in the nature conservation legislation. Because of this gap, for example, an owner of 9 tiger skins, detained in Primorsky krai of Russia in fall of 2012, will not be held liable. If the bill had been a law then, he would be now in jail”.

© WWF Russia