Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Tiger Trade

Cubes of tiger stock, which in Chinese medicine is widely believed to strengthen bones and alleviate arthritis, sell for €60 (£52) per gram. The skins were worth from €2,000-€4,000 and the claws were worth €100 each.

After the culmination of five years of work carried out by the Czech police, customs authorities and environmental inspectorate, they have uncovered an organised ring of Czech and Vietnamese criminals illegally killing and processing protected big cats for the traditional Chinese medicine market. Officials across Europe are now beginning to realise that illegal tiger farms are not just a problem in south-east Asia, but are also operating in the middle of the EU.

The movement of tigers across international borders is tightly controlled under international rules, while Czech laws go even further: each birth, death or sale of a tiger has to be recorded and the environmental inspectorate notified. The inspectors soon realised the paperwork was a mess. Tigers were reportedly being exported multiple times, disappearing altogether, or not having their deaths recorded. Most worryingly, the mortality rate of tigers kept in private facilities was shockingly high. In zoos or in the wild, tigers can live to well over 20 years. In the Czech Republic’s private breeding facilities they were consistently dying before they reached five.

In 2013, there started to emerge a number of “kontaktni zoos” – small private zoos where children can cuddle baby tigers and lions.
“You can use the small tiger or lion cubs only for half a year, or one year, absolutely no longer. Because it is too dangerous for children,” Rihova said. In order to fulfil the growing demand for tiger and lion cubs, it is necessary to breed more and more animals.
When the cubs have outgrown the petting zoos, other businesses such as circuses and stage shows can make use of them for another few years. But once tigers and lions reach full sexual maturity, at four or five years old, they are too big and dangerous for any of these uses. At this point they are worth significantly more dead than alive.

 It took almost two years, but eventually Czech customs and police unravelled the network. Customs officials believed  the likely source for the tiger products was

Ludvík Berousek, a member of a well-known Czech circus family, who runs the country’s largest breeding facility for tigers and lions. Officially, he breeds big cats to supply circuses, stage shows and petting zoos.

 At the top was Le Xuan Vu, a Vietnamese trader who would place the orders for the tigers. Berousek would then deliver them to the house of the taxidermist, a Czech hunting enthusiast called Miloš Hrozínek. Together with Vu, Hrozínek would dismember and cook the tigers in his house and shed.
“The world has already lost more than 90% of its tigers,” says Kieran Harkin of the charity Four Paws. “We call on the European commission to protect the endangered tigers and ban commercial trade in captive-bred tigers. Tiger traders and their cruel business should no longer have a place in the EU.”

No comments: