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China’s trade in tiger bones

Tiger bone wine has re-emerged on the market in China, despite a ban on the trade. Zhang Kejia warns that relaxing restrictions on tiger farming will endanger the big cats even further.

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Tiger bone wine (also known as “bone-restoring wine”) has recently appeared on the market in China. Does this mean that the 20-year ban on the trade in tiger bones has been lifted? This question has aroused great interest among animal protection activists in China and the rest of the world.

On August 25, China Youth Daily carried a report about tiger skeletons seen soaking in alcohol, and the resulting wine being sold, at the Xiongsen Distillery in Guangxi, southern China.

The Xiongsen Distillery is a subsidiary of Guilin’s Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park, located in Pingnan county. It produces tiger bone wine and bear bile wine. The distillery has a storage capacity of 8,000 tonnes; it has already used over 400 skeletons from farmed tigers – and plans to expand. A company spokesperson confirmed that Xiongsen’s “bone-restoring wine” is indeed made with tiger bones.

Amazingly, the company’s sale of these products has been approved by the State Forestry Administration and Industrial and Commercial Bureau. But the wildlife conservation status that the two organisations have issued is written in English, and reads “lion”, rather than “tiger”. Perhaps this was meant to avoid international repercussions. After all, not many people in China would understand the English. Clearly, the company is aware of international sensitivity to the trade in tigers.

The plight of wild tigers is currently a great cause for concern. In July, a scientific survey found that tigers’ habitats worldwide have been reduced by 40% over the last decade. China is home to only 50 wild tigers, any form of poaching or trade could quickly result in their extinction.

Poached tiger pelt seized in Thailand

Tiger pelt seized in Thailand, October 2003

As early as 1981, China become a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES lists tigers as one of the world’s most endangered species, and forbids all use and trade in tigers. In 1993, China’s State Council issued a ban on trade in water buffalo horn and tiger bones, which is still in force. On September 1 this year, the State Council enacted new regulations on the import and export of endangered wild fauna and flora, reaffirming China’s consistent stance on the protection of endangered species.

But tiger-farming companies still want to profit from tigers. After two decades of enforced silence, they have started complaining that the income from selling monkeys and entrance tickets to view the tigers is inadequate to care for the animals. At the same time, however, the companies are breeding over 1,000 more tigers. They claim that the animals cannot be allowed to starve, and put pressure on the authorities to lift the ban on the tiger-bone trade.

Hengdao Hezi Big Cat Fertility Centre, in northwest China’s Heilongjiang Province, is another large-scale manufacturer of tiger products. The State Forestry Administration covers the Hengdao Hezi Fertility Centre’s annual operating expenses, and once paid 7.5 million yuan (around US$953,000) to the Xiongsen Distillery. But these subsidies cannot keep up with the speed at which tigers are bred. The Xiongsen Distillery’s original population of 60 tigers has grown to over 1,500: enough to produce over 200,000 bottles of tiger bone wine for markets across China, worth tens of millions of yuan.

According to Kristin Nowell, from the Big Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the IUCN advocates a ban on all trade in tigers and tiger products. “The IUCN will not agree with the opening of even the smallest loophole,” she said. Nowell is concerned that if the current trade in tiger bone wine is not quickly brought under control, international sanctions against China may result.

“More importantly, it will have a very negative effect on China’s image, particularly with the Olympics being held in 2008,” says Ge Rui, the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s chief representative for Asia. “Reports on British TV of sales of tiger bone wine and use of musk in Guangdong affected China’s failed bid to hold the 2000 Olympics. That is a lesson that cannot be overlooked,” adds Ge.

Zhou Fang, a professor of zoology at Guangxi University, points out that protecting tigers should mean banning all trade in tiger products and preserving tiger habitats. But companies always seek the greatest possible profits, and leaving tiger protection in the hands of business was bound to lead to the situation we find ourselves in today, says Zhou.

For historical reasons, the forestry authorities oversee both the forestry industry and wildlife across China. Laws are in place to ensure the proper “protection and utilisation” of forestry resources and wildlife. Faced with the felling of natural forests and the endangerment of wild plants and animals, the government has increasingly restricted this “utilisation” of resources, emphasised the preservation of biodiversity and forbidden the use of endangered species. But the Chinese forestry authorities face a new challenge to step up their protection efforts. Many experts have suggested that the business of “protecting and supervising” and “exploiting and utilising” should be managed by separate state organs. 

The forestry authorities do not only have the right to approve the use of wild plants and animals, but also own a large number of companies which manufacture products from those resources. Many of these companies have close relationships with forestry officials; cadres and family members are often a part of this network of interests. There are particularly huge profits to be made from the use of endangered species. The forestry authorities are not only responsible for protecting wild plants and animals but they are also responsible for restricting their use. Some experts believe this is akin to allowing athletes to act as their own umpires.

Tiger farmers still claim they are breeding tigers for “scientific research.” But Wang Yingxiang, a big cat expert at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, points out that Xiongsen has no pure-bred South China Tigers. All of the tigers have interbred with other subspecies and are of little use for the study of genetics or animal behavior.

Tiger raised in captivity


Research on the behaviour of tigers bred in captivity may have some value in helping efforts to protect wild tigers, explains Xie Yan, of Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology, but there is no hope of re-introducing the animals to the wild. It would be too dangerous. There is no natural habitat for the animals to be released into; and they have lost the ability to mark out their own territories. Unable to catch their natural prey, the tigers would attack livestock – making them likely to be targeted by the humans that they no longer fear. Xie says that releasing tigers may also result in human diseases acquired in captivity being spread to wild populations, with potentially fatal results. Experts agree that claims of scientific research, protection and population recovery are all fronts for companies that want to profit from the sales of tiger bone wine.

But if the trade in tiger products is banned, what would happen to the thousand-plus farmed tigers?

Sheng Helin, a professor at East China Normal University, has a solution. Products made from tiger bones have the same effect as those made with bones from other animals. Other types of bones can be used as a substitute for tiger bones, he says. This is already accepted practice within Traditional Chinese Medicine – tiger bone has long been removed from the Chinese pharmacopoeia. Sheng suggests that a limited number of tigers should be raised by the state for viewing, scientific demonstrations and research. Companies should not be able to breed tigers for commercial gain. A failure to limit tiger breeding will be harmful to society, he says. Tigers currently owned by businesses should be used for education, research or display. Any remaining tigers can be swapped with other countries for other animals, or given away as gifts.

The authorities should act promptly and make their stance clear to the tiger farmers, emphasises professor Sheng, before the situation gets out of control.


Kejia Zhang is a senior reporter and editor with China Youth Daily

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评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

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评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

为什么???

所有参与虎骨交易的人都将得到惩罚。

???

All of you that purchase dead tiger amaterial will live your afterlife in HELL.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

虎骨酒????

请停止对这些老虎和其它动物无谓的杀害吧.你没听过葡萄也可以酿酒吗?葡萄可以酿成非常美味的酒.

Tiger Wine?????

Stop the useless killing of these and other animals.Did you ever hear of Grapes to make wine? They make mighty fine wine.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

很糟糕

人们还在捕猎。人类永远都不会得到教训。甚至有些人说动物很愚蠢。

本评论由陈丽英翻译。

pretty bad

People still hunting them. Humanity will never learn. And some people say animals are stupid.

Default thumb avatar
zhiqian

我认为虎骨酒可以开禁极其必要性

首先我希望这里是一个公正公平的平台,可以允许任何人自由的发表自己的意见,而不用担心,管理员依照自己的好恶来删除,如果是这样,那我是很开心的。
首先必须肯定的是,人工饲养的老虎,数量远远大于野生环境下的虎,而面对自然环境的逐步退化,虎类已经无法大量的在野外生存,这是客观事实,并不是呼吁几声“保护环境!”就可以解决的。
据我所知,桂林雄虎山庄使用的虎骨,都是自然死亡的虎,并没有人为杀害的行为,而且我们不能忽视该企业,虎的数量过多,入不敷出的现实,所以当地主管部门,迫于压力开禁的做法,虽然可能不通情理,但是也不失是唯一的一种办法,现在,在中国,野生动物,尤其是有悠久历史的,药用野生动物的保护处于一个极为尴尬的境地,中国国土面积大,在很多地方,监管不力,比如内蒙,新疆,西藏,青海等地区,野生动物资源丰富,代表性的藏羚羊,藏马熊,雪豹等,其濒危程度,不亚于虎,但是,现在的尴尬是,虎骨等要用珍稀动物的禁售,导致了黑市上虎骨价格的飙升,而在任何一个国家,黑市交易,往往是政府最无力监管的,在丰厚利益的驱使下,便会有更多人,铤而走险,猎杀野生虎,导致野生虎数量越来越少,反之,如果可以合理的饲养和合法的使用正常死亡的虎,并且有正规的监管,正规的销售渠道,这便大大的降低了黑市上虎骨的价格,反之就相对提高了盗猎的成本,才会使盗猎行为消失,从而保护野生虎。这个道理是如此的简单,为什么你们不明白?
在东方,医学和信仰往往是纠缠在一起的,作为东方医学领袖的中医,在东方人心中根深蒂固,而中医里面,虎骨又是重中之重,我们不可能因为一纸禁令,就让虎骨真的从市场上消失,毕竟,有患者有需求,所以,东方人的虎骨情结一天不消失,我们就不可能看到虎骨消失在黑市交易中,是选择让盗猎者获得暴利?还是选择合理合法利用,造福于民?现在到了选择的时候!

Ban on tiger bones wine need to be lifted

First of all, I wish this is a justice and impartial platform for readers giving their opinions without worrying their comments would be deleted by the administrator.

The quantity of farmed tigers is far larger than the amount of the wild tigers, and the fact is that the natural habitat for the tigers to be released into does not match the big quantity of the tigers with the devolution of the natural environment. This situation is not potentially be resolved by shouting "protect the environment!".

As far as I know, tiger skeletons that used in Guilin’s Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park are from naturally dead tigers. The fact that the subsidise from the government is not enough to cover the expenses of the company due to the large amount of farmed tigers cannot be neglected. Therefore, lifting the ban on tiger bones trade becomes the only choice for the local governments. In China, protection of the medicine-used wild animals is in a dilemma. The territory of China is too large to execute effective administration. For example, wild animals resources are rich in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tibet and Qinghai, but the possibility of endanger for Tibetan antelope, Cangma Bear and Snow leopard is no less than tigers. The ban on the trade of tiger bones raises the price of tiger bones in the black market, which is a point that difficult for government to reach. More businessmen would take risk to kill the tigers under the pursue of high profits, which lead to the decrease on the number of wild tigers. Conversely, if the naturally dead tigers could be used in tiger bones production, within a formal mechanism and regulation, the price of tiger bones in the black market would be reduced incredibly, which would raise the cost of poaching and gradually reduce it. This is common sense.

In the east, medicine is intervened with belief, and tiger bones are important ingredients in Chinese medicine. Tiger bones are not likely to be disappeared in the market just because of the ban due to the demand from the patients. As a result, tiger bones trade in the black market is not likely to disappear as long as eastern people still reckon the value of tiger bones. This is our choice whether to give away the profits to poachers or practice reasonable trade mechanisms.