In China wild tigers are close to extinction, it is estimated that just 50 remain. In captivity, however, their numbers are flourishing with tiger farms and reserves attracting thousands of tourists every year. Several large parks, including Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village in Guilin and The Siberian Tiger Forest Park in Harbin, claim to be struggling to support themselves on their current funding and visitor fees alone.
The Chinese government, under pressure from these farms, is pushing to legalise the trade of tiger parts, in a seemingly ironic gesture to save the species from extinction. Tiger parts have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5000 years, but the practice was banned 14 years ago in a global attempt to preserve this endangered species. If the ban is lifted, it will only apply to farmed tigers, not wild tigers and the profits generated will, supposedly support the 'rewilding' efforts China is currently undertaking.
Xiongsen, one of the most controversial farms, houses nearly 1700 tigers and has been declared as an official centre for captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild. Animals are trained to perform in spectacles including "Grand Meeting of Bear and Tiger” and "Theatre of Dreams" and visitors can buy live chickens, turkeys, ducks or even cows to feed the tigers.
It is said the live prey will encourage the re-wilding of the farmed tigers, but many feel this is a pointless and barbaric act as these tigers will never be ready to be released into the wild. Indeed, farmed tigers, without natural hunting experience have difficulties in killing and devouring a live cow and the farm workers usually remove the injured cow for slaughter after fifteen minutes.
The first re-wilded tiger is due to be re-introduced back to the wild during the Beijing Olympics 2008.
CLICK HERE to see larger images. (opens in new window)
These images are from an on-going project by Renhui Zhao.
Additional text by Grace Pattison.
Jonathan Watts, The Guardian, 13 April 2007: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/apr/13/animalwelfare.china
Press Release on "Live Feeding" from NSPCA: http://www.nspca.co.za
Save China's Tigers response to NSPCA press release: savechinastigers.org
BBC News 16 April 2008: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7348449.stm
Trading in Extinction by Patrick Brown 8 Magazine V3N3 Dec 2004
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