years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
February 2010: Animals Asia has been following the issue of tiger breeding and the sale of tiger parts for use in traditional medicine for many years and is appalled by the large-scale tiger breeding that is currently occurring at numerous wildlife parks in China.
We are particularly horrified to learn that the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park in Guilin (where we first exposed live animal feeding for “entertainment” in 1999) has escalated its unethical and brutal treatment of wild animals in its care. In February 2007, an undercover team from the UK’s ITN News was served meat at this facility that DNA analysis subsequently proved to be tiger. In 2009, Animals Asia investigators were offered tiger bone wine for sale inside this park.
In 2010 our investigators were also offered tiger bone wine and tiger urine during a visit to Bi Feng Xia Safari Park in Ya’an.
All international trade in tiger parts is banned by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and China has banned domestic trade since 1993. The ban has proven to be successful in reducing demand for tiger bone and raising public awareness about tiger conservation. However, the Chinese State Forestry Administration subsequently issued a document in December 2007 allowing trade in legally obtained tiger and leopard skins. The document outlines the trade and use of tiger and leopard skins “and their products”, but the wording is ambiguous enough to allow its interpretation by the vast tiger farms in China as a go-ahead to produce tiger bone wine.
Xu Hongfa, of TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network), said: “I think these words could be used as a cover by tiger farmers to make tiger bone wine and they would try to argue that it doesn’t just refer to skins.”
In January 2010 an official from the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) confirmed that the internal sale of tiger products is totally illegal.
On 4 January 2010 the State Forestry Administration issued a directive calling for a crackdown on illegal smuggling and trade in tiger parts and products, specifically asking local forestry bureaus in China to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to increase monitoring and undertake enforcement measures against such trade.
The directive calls for promoting public awareness to reduce consumption of tiger parts and a public rejection of the illegal trade, and suggests encouraging and motivating people to report wildlife crime to the authorities. At the same time, officials who repeatedly ignore public complaints about illegal trade will be held accountable.
The directive also calls for increased monitoring and management of captive tiger breeding facilities through the creation of a database to track all tiger births and deaths in such facilities and the secure storage of stockpiles of tiger bodies and parts. Those facilities without storage capabilities will have to destroy their stockpiles under the supervision of local authorities and each operation will be required to demonstrate it has met the appropriate conditions before it will be issued with a permit to open for public viewing.
In February 2010, the vice head of the State Forestry Administration, Yin Hong, said China has nearly 6,000 tigers in captivity and could breed 1,000 more every year.
The Chinese government initially encouraged the development of tiger farms in the 1980s reportedly to try and preserve the species. The existence of tiger farms and the support they receive from the government indicates that one day the government will legalise the trade in tiger parts. Belinda Wright, of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said that China's decision to allow tiger farms to continue to operate was against the regulations of CITES and against the consensus of the international community. Ms Wright said: "By allowing breeding and the stockpiling of tiger parts they are sending a clear message that the trade in tiger bones will one day be legalised."
Proponents of tiger farming claim that legalising the trade in ‘farmed’ tiger parts will help to conserve wild tiger populations, yet according to World Bank estimates it costs at least US$2,000 to raise a tiger in captivity - and US$200 or less to kill a wild tiger. Buyers have no way of distinguishing illegal parts from legal ones, which means that poached tigers and parts could easily be ‘laundered’ as farmed ones. Tiger parts from countries such as India, which has the world's largest wild tiger population, could also be trafficked to China.
Certain factions within the Chinese government are calling for an end to the ban on the trade in tiger parts and their reintroduction into the Chinese pharmacopoeia – a move that would almost certainly hasten the extinction of this majestic animal in the wild. Three subspecies of the tiger have become extinct in the past five decades and trading would risk the extinction of the remaining six.
A century ago there were an estimated 100,000 tigers in the wild, while current estimates suggest there may be less than 3500 left. The State Forestry Administration states there are just 50 to 60 wild tigers left in China, while conservation groups believe the numbers may be lower than 50.
Our position on the use of endangered species in traditional medicine remains unchanged. There must be an absolute ban - regardless of whether the animal has died a natural death or has been slaughtered – otherwise tigers, bears and other threatened species will remain a target for poachers, who will expect exorbitant prices for wild-caught animals.
The use of endangered species for medicinal purposes is totally unacceptable under any circumstances.
Animals Asia is a member of the International Tiger Coalition, an alliance of 35 organisations representing more than 100 bodies across the globe, united under the common aim of stopping the trade in tiger parts and products from all sources. This coalition is calling on China to make the tiger ban permanent, close down the farms and destroy their stockpiles of carcasses.
Realistically because we must continue concentrating our efforts and resources on bringing the bear bile industry to an end, we are not actively working in this area. However, there are a number of other organisations working to tackle the issue.
Save the Tiger Fund initiated the Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking (CATT) a 3-year, global partnership initiative. For details see: here
You can also write a polite letter to the Chinese Ambassador and send it to the main embassy address in their country. Embassy addresses can be found at: www.travelchinaguide.com/embassy.
We believe it is important that the authorities are made aware of the strong and widespread opposition to a lifting of the ban in tiger products both nationally and internationally.
Finally, we are very aware that any erosion of laws safeguarding tigers would also impact negatively on our efforts to end bear bile farming, which does not bode well for the future. Even once bear farming has ended, we will need to keep the pressure on to ensure this terrible industry never returns. This is why Animals Asia is focused on educating the public to stop using endangered animal products and help keep all wild species where they belong – in the wild.