'Illegal wildlife trade pushing species to brink of extinction'

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Bangkok, June 3 (IANS) The discovery of more than 40 dead tiger cubs in Thailand's Tiger Temple represents only a "tiny proportion" of the enormous extent of an illegal trade in wildlife that is "pushing species to the brink of extinction", the UNEP-UNODC said on Friday.

"While circumstances of their death remain unclear, sadly, those tiger cubs represent only a tiny proportion of the enormous extent of an illegal trade in wildlife that is pushing species to the brink of extinction. Indeed, only around 4,000 tigers are left in the wild," United Nations Environment Programme-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a statement.

"Until the illegal trade in wildlife is stopped, we are only likely to see more of these types of situations," the statement added.

The theme for World Environment Day on June 5 this year is the illegal trade in wildlife to raise awareness of this severe problem. Tigers are one of the key species in the campaign.

The illegal trade in wildlife, estimated to profit criminals to the tune of billions of dollars annually worldwide, comprises everything from the lucrative trade in Tiger parts in East Asia to ivory from African elephants, the organisations said.

"It undermines our environment, economies, communities and security."

"The commendable action by Thailanda's authorities, coordinated by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, highlights the need for constant vigilance by wildlife law enforcement authorities to the threat posed by traffickers."

"Given the extent of the illegal wildlife market in Asia it is important for all countries to unite and eradicate these illegal practices," the statement said.

Officials had recovered 40 dead tiger cubs, just one to two days old, from a freezer at Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua temple, known as the "Tiger Temple", on Wednesday, EFE news reported.

The cubs were not recorded in the register for wild animals the temple has to maintain by law and that means the protection department will press charges for illegal possession, besides other possible offences.​

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