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Crackdown Is Urged on the Trading of Tiger Parts in China

September 01, 2006|Ching-Ching Ni | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING — Despite an official ban, the trafficking of tiger bones in China, particularly for use in traditional medicine and health tonics, remains robust and poses a serious threat to the endangered species, international conservationists said Thursday.

A recent study said about 5,000 wild tigers are left in the world. The tiger population in China reportedly has dwindled to less than 50, largely because of poaching, habitat loss and commercial exploitation, animal experts said.

Illegal trading in tiger parts "undermines the positive steps the Chinese government has taken over the years to protect the endangered animal," said Hua Ning, a representative of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Since 1993, the Chinese government has banned all domestic trade in tiger parts.

Without the ban, animal rights groups say, the tigers might have declined at a much faster pace.

Today, Beijing will begin enforcing a stronger regulation to combat illegal trade in wildlife and to help the country implement an international agreement to protect endangered species.

A recent investigation by the China Youth Daily found that at least one tiger farm in southwestern China ran a thriving business selling tiger bone wine. The report describes an underground brewery with hundreds of vats large enough to hold whole tiger carcasses.

The wine is believed by some to have medicinal powers, including the ability to cure rheumatism, invigorate men and give women better skin.

The wine is reportedly sold at regional outlets and the local airport for about $100 a bottle.

Its price and rarity make it a prized gift by some Chinese looking to build business or government connections.

The brewer, Xiong Sen Wine Industries Limited Co., based in Guangxi province, told the China Youth Daily that it was part of the Guilin Xiong Sen Tiger and Bear Farm, which said it had the largest breeding ground in China with a captive population of more than 1,100 tigers.

The company reported sales of 200,000 bottles a year, with distributors in other parts of the country.

The carcasses used in making the wine come from farm-raised animals that died in captivity, the farm managers said.

The managers told Chinese media that they had been granted permission by the State Forestry Administration to use tiger parts.

That statement raised concern among conservation groups that current laws were not being enforced and that the ban on the trading of tiger parts might be lifted.

Since few people can distinguish between the bones of a wild tiger and a captive one, conservationists worry that any legalized trade in tiger parts could encourage the poaching of wild tigers.

"Any resumption in legal domestic trade of tiger parts could be the final act that drives the tiger toward extinction," Susan Lieberman, director of the World Wildlife Fund's Global Species Program, said in a statement.

"We call upon the Chinese government to retain and reinforce its important 1993 ban."

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chingching.ni@latimes.com

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