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How Farming Tiger Parts Just Makes Poaching Worse

Posted by Richard Conniff on January 4, 2015

What's so interesting? At Tiger Park in Harbin,  China, tourists pay $10 to feed tigers a live chicken. (Qilai Shen/For The Washington Post)

At Tiger Park in Harbin, China, tourists pay $10 to feed tigers a live chicken. (Qilai Shen/For The Washington Post)

The Washington Post has an interesting account about how the trend among China’s elite for showing off status with products made from tigers is actually getting worse, not better. China’s State Forestry Administration is driving the process by subsidizing farming of tiger parts, according to the report, and that inadvertently makes poaching of wild tigers more lucrative.

Here’s an excerpt:

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 making tiger poaching more lucrative across Asia — because it is cheaper to kill wild tigers and smuggle pelts and parts across borders than to raise captive-bred ones, and the wild cats often are 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). “This is a ridiculous notion and has turned into a disastrous experiment.”

Tigers’ numbers globally have stabilized in recent years, yet they are still perilously low. And wild tigers are dying in record numbers in India, their main habitat, with many killed by poachers to satisfy demand from China.

The next two years could be crucial, environmentalists say. With calls for change increasing both within the country and outside, China is reviewing its 25-year-old wildlife law and asking itself: Will it stand on the side of its domestic tiger-farming lobby or will it stand on the side of wild tigers and global public opinion?

Read the whole story here.

6 Responses to “How Farming Tiger Parts Just Makes Poaching Worse”

  1. somsai said

    So what is the cost of farmed tiger meat, how much meat per carcass, how much the cost of bone etc. Seems like shooting a tiger in say Burma, then transporting to Chinese border would cost more.

  2. vdinets said

    AFAIK, the tiger park in Harbin is much more popular with tourists than other ones. But there is virtually no habitat left in Manchuria for reintroducing Siberian tigers, and wherever there is some forest left, the level of poaching with snares is too high for any big cat’s long-term survival. The only place that’s marginally fit is Changbaishan/Paektusan, but it’s on the Korean border, so there are lots of people with guns and a constant risk of tigers crossing into North Korea.

  3. Consuming parts of something powerful, for a long time, has been popular amongst humans. Cannibals ate the brains of formidable opponents they killed. Only recently did we realize, that this could cause Kreutzfeld Jacob disease by transfer of infected particles (prions). The horn of rhinoceros, grinded and put into a potion, is thought by some – mainly men – to promote virility, for naive, obvious reason. Cats eating the nervous system of cattle infected with bovine spongious encefalopathy (BSE) became crazy. It took months to find out that also humans could become affected in the same way. It cannot be excluded that future careful research, will detect that depression or corruption, is also a trait that can be developed by eating or drinking tiger bone wine. A real threat exists, though, as wild felidae, the group of carnivores that include the tiger, may indeed contain infectious BSE prions (http://vir.sgmjournals.org/content/91/11/2874.full.pdf) and simple heating as normally used to sterilize nutitional components from animals, is NOT sufficient to kill these prions.
    This view is expressed by Dr Gerard Rutteman (DVM, PhD)

  4. New Opinion Survey on Chinese Attitudes toward tiger parts trade:

    A recent survey of 677 citizens and 381 college students in Beijing revealed that people hold clear positions on arguments for and against the ban on tiger trade and were inclined to support the ban on trading tiger products. Also, respondents were more balanced toward arguments against the use of farmed tigers to prevent reductions in wild tigers than arguments in support of it.

    “Clearly, the public has a clear mind about the value of tigers: tigers belong to the wild and their ecological, cultural and scientific values are more important than their economic value; however, when the habitat of wild tigers no longer exists anymore, like in the case of the South China Tiger, conservation breeding becomes the last option of saving the tigers,” said Dr. Zhigang Jiang, co-author of the Animal Conservation article. “When tiger populations in conservation breeding facilities increase, some people think conservation breeding is a kind of ‘farming’. How to maintain a suitable and sustainable population size of conservation breeding and how to handle the dead individuals during breeding are problems that still remain.”

    Journal Reference:

    Z. Liu, Z. Jiang, C. Li, H. Fang, X. Ping, Z. Luo, S. Tang, L. Li, Z. Meng, Y. Zeng. Public attitude toward tiger farming and tiger conservation in Beijing, China. Animal Conservation, 2015; DOI: 10.1111/acv.12181

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