VIENTIANE, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- The decision by the Lao government to phase out its tiger farms is a major step in fighting the illegal wildlife trade, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on Thursday.
The WWF-Laos welcomes the move by the Lao government to close its tiger farms.
"It is high time that the illegal trafficking of wildlife is dealt with for good. WWF-Laos stands ready to provide technical assistance to tackle this task head-on, and is willing to start working with the Lao government on a detailed phase-out plan of all illegal tiger farms in the country," Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director, was quoted by Lao state-run news agency KPL as saying.
Laos decided to close its tiger farms during the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) held last week in South Africa's Johannesburg. There are an estimated 700 tigers bred in three facilities in Laos.
"This is a great moment for Laos to show regional leadership in the fight against illegal wildlife crime, and that this commitment will translate into a model that can be followed by other countries to close down their tiger farms," Bouasavanh added.
A major concern will be what to do with the tigers in those farms to ensure that they are well cared for in accredited facilities and do not end up in the illegal wildlife trade chain.
"Eventually, this represents a significant opportunity for Laos to return to the prestigious list of tiger-range countries by investigating the potential for releasing some of these tigers in National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, 're-wilding' the forests of Laos," KPL quoted the WWF as saying.