According to our Observers, killing tigers is becoming a spectator sport for wealthy businessmen and government official in southern China, where tigers symbolise power. Footage circulating online in recent days shows the cruel nature of the practice.
Warning, these photos are graphic.
TVS, a television channel in Guangdong province, recently broadcast footage filmed secretly two years ago, allegedly at a private party held by the local elite. The video shows a caged tiger being killed by electrocution. Then the tiger’s body is chopped into pieces under the gaze of party guests.
The release of this footage coincided with an announcement by police in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, that they had arrested 15 gang members suspected of killing at least 10 tigers trafficked from Vietnam over the last few years. Police reported that another suspect, thought to be the animal executioner, died during the arrest. The police also seized the body of a butchered tiger during the raid.
Animal body parts can be sold for staggering prices on the Chinese black market. Tiger bones are worth roughly 14,000 yuan (1,600 euros) per kilo, and tiger meat sells for 1,000 yuan (120 euros) per kilo. This illegal traffic continues to thrive largely because of the virtues that traditional Chinese medicine attributes to tiger-based products. Alcohol made with tiger bones is thought to be a cure for rheumatism. This alcohol is also given as a gift for important occasions.
According to WWF, Indochinese tigers are an endangered species facing extinction. There are only 350 left in China, Thailand, Laos, Burma and Cambodia combined. The South China tiger is considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature to be a critically endangered species. It has not been seen in the wild since the 1970s.
Outraged by this practice, Li Qiang, a Chinese blogger and city employee in Chongqing, condemns local government officials for the role they play in this trade that encourages the poaching of endangered species.
He highlighted how much the relationship between man and tiger has changed over the past 50 years.
Half a century ago, villages in southern China organised tiger hunts to protect inhabitants. Now, the predator has become prey that is slaughtered in the most ghastly ways.
"This cruelty is not directed only towards tigers. Many other animals said to have medicinal properties such as birds, deer and monkeys are also slaughtered.
"The most worrisome aspect of this situation, however, is that government officials, who are supposed to be working to protect these animals, are actually often involved in the poaching and illegal trade of these species.
"Last year, the director of forest management in Leizhou in Zhanjiang was fired due to his inability to protect migratory birds that travelled through his region each year. But this is only one instance. More government officials should be held accountable.
"I believe that those involved in tiger executions should be imprisoned. If we don’t take drastic action now, future generations may never see live tigers."