In China, tigers are said to have been publicly slaughtered for the amusement of the rich. The government’s role in this is apparently ambivalent.
Killing a tiger apparently entertains some people in China. Picture: reuters
Volker Homes is head of the species protection department at WWF and a member of the Traffic network, which monitors trade in protected species. He is probably used to horror scenarios involving dead animals, but the latest news horrifies even him: "The interaction between humans and animals in China is different from that in Germany, but the manifestations are becoming increasingly bizarre. It’s disgusting," says Homes. If the news is true, at least ten tigers have been killed in the city of Zhanjiang in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in recent years for the entertainment of wealthy businessmen in "live shows."
According to Chinese media reports, police seized a freshly slaughtered tiger and numerous tiger "products" and arrested 15 suspects. Among them was a former pig slaughterer who now earns his money with the public killing of tigers.
The business is apparently very lucrative: rich customers are said to have paid up to the equivalent of 90,000 euros for the purchase and slaughter of a big cat. The authorities also seized a video in which a tiger locked in a tiny metal cage is tortured with electric shocks in its mouth until it loses consciousness.
In all likelihood, the animals used for the bizarre spectacle do not come from the wild, according to Volker Homes of the WWF – there simply aren’t enough of them left. In China there are only about 350 wild tigers, worldwide about 3200, they are threatened with extinction. But in China there are also so-called tiger farms where the wild cats are kept and reproduce. This is legal, but should not be confused with a scientific breeding program to preserve the species, Homes emphasizes. The operators are wealthy private individuals, and none of the money flows into species conservation, let alone releasing tigers into the wild.
No shortage of tiger products
Since 1993 the trade with tiger products is forbidden in China. It is however certain that the tigers multiply in these farms – after an investigation of the nature protection organization Conservation international even three times as fast as in the wilderness. Estimated 10,000 animals are to be it alone in the farms in China. What happens to the ever-growing number of wild cats can only be speculated.
Body parts, teeth and brains of tigers are used in Chinese medicine as a remedy. A kilogram of tiger bones fetches prices of around 14,000 yuan (the equivalent of around 1,600 euros), while the meat fetches around 1,000 yuan per kilo. Alcohol with tiger bones in it is also said to be popular.
The report on the raid was published in the state-run Nanfang Daily newspaper. China, Volker Homes said, is increasingly trying to portray itself positively in public with such actions. Actually the Chinese government strengthened the international co-operation for the fight against the poaching in the last years and differently than Laos and Thailand no longer only word sleeves supplied. Why the government does not ban tiger farming, however, is unclear. Arrests and convictions would have a deterrent character and therefore be welcome, Homes said.
The official attitude and the private ‘pleasure’ of government officials are apparently not necessarily congruent anyway: one government official was quoted as saying, "A friend once called me and invited me to witness the killing of a tiger, but I was out of town at the time and missed the opportunity." The shows would be touted as "visual feasts" and served as "eye-openers" to "broaden horizons."