Conservationists concerned as tiger farming industry removes stigma of buying status symbols and boosts illegal trade
To the thump of dance music, four tigers roll over in succession, and then raise themselves up on to their haunches. A man in a shiny blue shirt waves a metal stick at them, and they lift their front paws to beg.
The “show” takes place twice a day in a gloomy 1,000-seat auditorium – empty on a recent afternoon except for one Chinese tourist, two reporters and a security guard, its broken seats and cracked spotlights painting a picture of neglect.
Outside, hundreds of tigers pace back and forth in small, scrubby enclosures or lie listlessly in much smaller, concrete and rusted metal cages. An occasional plaintive growl rends the air.
This is the Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village in the southern Chinese city of Guilin, one of the country’s biggest tiger farms. It is part of a booming industry that is threatening to drive this magnificent animal toward extinction in the wild, conservationists say, by fuelling demand for “luxury” tiger parts.
Encouraged by the tiger farming industry, China’s wealthy are rediscovering a taste for tiger bone wine – promoted as a treatment for rheumatism and impotence – as well as tiger skin rugs and stuffed animals, sought after as status symbols among an elite obsessed with conspicuous consumption.
That trend, in turn, is only making tiger poaching more lucrative across Asia – because wild tigers are still cheaper to kill and smuggle across borders than captive bred ones and often preferred by consumers. Farming has removed any stigma from tiger products and undermined global efforts to stamp out the illegal trade.
“The argument put forward by the tiger-farming lobby is that farmed tiger products will flood the market, relieving pressure on wild tigers,” said Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaigning organisation. “This is a ridiculous notion and has turned into a disastrous experiment.”
Tigers numbers globally may have stabilised in recent years, yet they are still perilously low, and wild tigers are still dying in record numbers in India, their main habitat, with many killed by poachers to satisfy demand from China.
Source: TheGuardian Read more