» Wenzhou circus tiger case exposes flaws in China’s trade
Wenzhou circus tiger case exposes flaws in China’s trade
December 10, 2014
Thousands of tigers are held in captivity throughout China and South-East Asia, many destined to be butchered for their meat and bones, their skins turned into luxury home décor.
The licensed trade in the skins of captive-bred tigers in China poses an enforcement nightmare as it masks and stimulates illegal trade, diverting vital police and investigative resources.
One incident this year and its subsequent investigation, only recently concluded, has cast a light on the opaque and porous nature of China’s ‘legal’ tiger trade, underlining just how susceptible it is to being used as a front for the laundering of illegal products.
On January 8, 2014 Wenzhou’s special police force discovered the body of a Siberian tiger in the trunk of a Toyota SUV in Zhejiang Province. The buyer, Wang, was arrested next to the vehicle while the seller, Yang, fled the scene.
After several months, a group connected to the illegal tiger carcass trade was caught. It was found that the Wenzhou tiger carcass came from the China circus town of Suzhou, in Anhui province. After detailed investigations, it was determined that the tiger had died from an illness.
A report at the time in the South China Morning Post stated: “A local zookeeper told the press that the tiger was unlikely to have come from the wild or the circus, as circus tigers usually have their canine teeth or “fangs” removed.”
The subsequent police investigation has effectively put paid to that assertion.
In April, Wang was jailed for six years and fined 50,000 yuan but the facts in the case beg the question as to how a dead tiger from an Anhui circus could have travelled thousands miles and ended up in the trader’s SUV in Wenzhou.
Following up on information obtained from the buyer and seller, a complete and complex chain of illegal tiger trading has gradually emerged, revealing a multi-tiered criminal network, most members of which have now been jailed and fined.
One of the key issues requiring explanation is why this Siberian tiger had no ID tag – according to China’s State Forestry Administration regulations, all captive tigers in zoos, tiger farms or circuses must be registered and implanted with electronic tags for identification.
Liu Ming, the vice-executive director of Wenzhou Wildlife Protection Association, has speculated that circuses deliberately report inaccurate numbers of new-born tigers to the SFA, hiding some tigers on paper for future potential illegal trading.
The Wenzhou tiger had been transferred five times and potentially could have ended up on someone’s dinner table, its black market price doubling in that time from 150,000 yuan to 300,0000.
EIA Lead Campaigner Debbie Banks said: “While the rest of the world is trying to end tiger trade, China’s policies are encouraging a high-value commercial enterprise that is driving it.
“For the sake of the world’s remaining 3,000 wild tigers, it’s time for a zero-demand approach.”
• To learn more about tiger farming and captive tigers, read the EIA report Hiding in Plain Sight here