China has for the first time admitted in public that it permits trade in skins from captive tigers, according to participants and officials at a meeting of an international convention to protect endangered species.
They said the Chinese authorities had never before reported this to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
However, during the convention's standing committee meeting in Geneva, China reportedly said that it still banned tiger bones.
"A Chinese delegate said, 'we don't ban trade in tiger skins but we do ban trade in tiger bones,'" a participant in the meeting said.
Cites secretariat sources confirmed that a member of the Chinese delegation had said this.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told the BBC Chinese Service he could not verify the reported admission, but he said that China will "investigate and combat" any illegal trade in tiger skins.
Between 5,000 and 6,000 tigers are believed to be in captivity in China. Wildlife conservation organisations have long demanded an end to the trade in skins.
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