How Farming Tiger Parts Just Makes Poaching Worse
Posted by Richard Conniff on January 4, 2015
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?