Chinese demand for tiger wine and skins puts wild cats in peril

Conservationists concerned as tiger farming industry removes stigma of buying status symbols and boosts illegal trade

A pack of tigers lunge at a live chicken purchased for them by a tourist at the Heilongjiang Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin, China. Photograph: Qilai Shen/Washington Post

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

Sunday Story Time

‘Man-eating’ tiger shot dead in India’s Maharashtra

There has been a spate of tiger attacks in India in recent months

Forest workers say they have shot dead a tiger blamed for killing seven people in the past six months in western India.

The tiger, described as a “man-eater” by authorities, killed the victims in a forest in Chandrapur in Maharashtra.

This was the third tiger to be shot dead for killing people in the area since 2007, officials said.

There has been a spate of tiger attacks in India recently, with at least 17 people killed this year.

District officials formed three teams to track down the tiger in Chandrapur – home to some 100 tigers – and it was killed on Tuesday evening.

“The growing incidents of man-animal conflict in the area have put a lot of pressure on the [forest] department in the last six months. Considering the safety of people, orders to shoot the animal were issued,” Maharashtra forest chief Sarjan Bhagat told BBC Hindi.

Earlier, two tigers blamed for the deaths of nine people were shot dead in the area in 2007.

There are about 1,700 tigers left in the wild in India.

It is estimated India had 100,000 tigers a century ago, but their numbers have declined sharply since then, due to poaching and rapidly shrinking habitats.

With increasing human encroachment into their reserves, tigers often compete for resources with nearby villagers, leading to conflict.

Wildlife experts say most attacks on people are chance encounters gone wrong, and victims of such attacks are rarely dragged away as prey.

But a series of attacks on people in quick succession is a tell-tale sign of a man-eater at work, they add.

Source: BBCNews

Opinion:

Sorely there was a better solution… The world is running out of tigers.