China’s new answer to helping wildlife parks and their starving tigers is to put the tigers to death — so they can use them to make tiger bone wine.
A series of wildlife parks in Guangxi that house tigers have been discovered to be purposely starving their tigers to death in order to make their bones into wine. The wine is believed, by some in China, to offer numerous health benefits, including improving sexual performance.
Because of a decline in popularity of wildlife parks, there has also been a decline in profitability. It is this reason that we are seeing an increase in the tiger trade, as zoos struggle to make money. A worker at one zoo in Guilin told China media outlet Sina:
“There are so many tigers; it is not easy to make sure all of them are well-fed.”
Eleven tigers starved to death at a zoo in Shenyang in 2010 after the owners had ran out of money to feed them. An official from the zoo was quoted at the time, saying:
“The zoo is in a financial crisis, and we haven’t been able to provide the tigers with sufficient food for the last two years.”
In early 2015 The Guardian reported that there were 5,000 to 6,000 tigers being held on nearly 200 farms across China. With tiger skin, bones, and teeth among other parts being sold for around 65,000 yuan, an amount of money which seems to be too enticing for some struggling zoos, which are now beginning to farm the animal for the trade.
This has also now encouraged China’s wealthy to rediscover the taste for tiger bone wine. The Guardian wrote:
“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.”
Watch this report from GeoBeats News:
Debbie Banks of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaigning organization, told The Guardian:
“The argument put forward by the tiger-farming lobby is that farmed tiger products will flood the market, relieving pressure on wild tigers.”
“This is a ridiculous notion and has turned into a disastrous experiment.”
China banned trade in tiger bone and rhino horn in 1993 under massive pressure from across the globe. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners had also removed the products from their pharmacopeia, in a move conservationist says helped cut demand and stabilize the population of Siberian tigers in north Asia.
However, since the establishment of the tiger farms, Chinese wildlife officials have been campaigning for a lift of the ban on tiger bone use. Their argument — they have the right to use “domestic natural resources” as it sees fit, with tiger bone wine being medically effective and part of Chinese culture.
The world disagrees with China, however they still continue to farm these animals. There have been a number of investigations completed by the EIA and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) over the past decade showing a booming demand for tiger bone wine.
Grace Ge Gabriel of the IFAW said:
“After these farms started selling wine, and taxidermists started selling tiger pelts, it really stimulated waning demand from consumers.”
The outlook for these animals is a bleak one, and with the proposed changes to China’s wildlife laws classifying the endangered species as “natural resources,” which means they can be bred in captivity for commercial purposes, it is only going to get worse.