Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chinese demand for tiger wine and skins puts wild cats in peril

Conservationists concerned as tiger farming industry removes stigma of buying status symbols and boosts illegal trade

Simon Denyer for the Washington Post

Guardian Weekly, Saturday 3 January 2015 23.00 GMT

To the thump of dance music, four tigers roll over in succession, and then raise themselves up on to their haunches. A man in a shiny blue shirt waves a metal stick at them, and they lift their front paws to beg.

The “show” takes place twice a day in a gloomy 1,000-seat auditorium – empty on a recent afternoon except for one Chinese tourist, two reporters and a security guard, its broken seats and cracked spotlights painting a picture of neglect.

Outside, hundreds of tigers pace back and forth in small, scrubby enclosures or lie listlessly in much smaller, concrete and rusted metal cages. An occasional plaintive growl rends the air.

This is the Xiongshen Tiger and Bear Mountain Village in the southern Chinese city of Guilin, one of the country’s biggest tiger farms. It is part of a booming industry that is threatening to drive this magnificent animal toward extinction in the wild, conservationists say, by fuelling demand for “luxury” tiger parts.

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