This painfully emaciated tiger is the shocking face of China’s illegal trade in tiger bones.The image of the caged animal emerged after11 Siberian tigers were found starving to death in a scandal-plagued Chinese zoo.The Shenyang Forest Wildlife Zoo, which has been closed down by police, has been accused of illegally supplying tiger bones to local doctors who use them to brew traditional medicines.
But it is not the only place where tigers in China are in danger.The image of the tiger above was taken in the Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Park in Guilin City, China, where 1,400 tigers are kept in a space the size of Regents Park.A source said that tigers there are slowly starving as food rations are slashed to pay to run refrigerators keeping the animal’s body parts fresh to sell on the black market.Trade in the bones is banned – but the parts from one tiger can fetch up to £50,000 on the black market.
Siberian tigers are a critically endangered species. Only 400 of the creatures are thought to remain in the wild.It is thought that between 6 and 10,000 tigers are being kept in captivity in China.The government has defended the ‘captive breeding programme’ which allows zoos like this to operate.But animal welfare activists say many of the country’s ‘captive breeding centres’ are really just farms for the sought-after tiger body parts.Hua Ning, the project director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in China, said: ‘Anyone with money is allowed to build a zoo or wildlife park without proper facilities, professional breeders or veterinarians.
‘When they later discover, they cannot afford to raise the animals, this leads to deaths and labour disputes.’The Chinese police said an investigation had been launched into the mistreatment of animals at the zoo.Liu Xiongying, a senior official at the State Forestry Admission, told the China Daily: ‘We are closely following the development of the incidents.‘If it proves such bad practices are happening on a large scale, the administration will release nationwide measures to stop such actions.’