Chinese “Animal parks” openly selling illegal tiger bone wine
June 2008. Animal parks in China are selling illegal tiger bone wine made from the remains of the captive big cats which die there, covert investigations by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have revealed. Despite national and international laws banning trade in the body parts of tigers, staff at ‘safari' parks offered to sell undercover EIA investigators tiger bone wine and were openly advertising the wine.
Park staff told EIA that they had regular customers for the wine, an alcoholic ‘health tonic' made from the crushed bones of deceased tigers and which purports to treat a wealth of conditions including arthritis and rheumatism.
$186 per bottle
One regular customer bought two cases of wine at a time, it was said. It was offered at up to US $186 (£94) a bottle at one park and "deluxe" gift packs at US $286 (£145) were on sale at another.
One of the parks even showed EIA a certificate they claimed was an official government permit allowing them to sell the wine on the premises only. Both parks visited said the tigers had died following fights there. They are skinned and carcasses stored in freezers until they can be separated from the bones. The park near Beijing admitted it kept skins but was unclear what happened to them. Trade in skins is also banned under national law and under CITES (the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
EIA researchers had followed up one company advertising what appeared to be bone wine on the internet to see if it was a scam. They traced it to the Qinhuangdao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Beidaihe, Hebei Province, just four hours drive from Beijing where it was claimed the bones of "wild" tigers were stored.
However, it was at the neighbouring facility, the privately owned Qinhuangdao Wild Animal Park where EIA investigators were offered tiger bone wine. The park is open to the public, boasting a ‘safari' and a circus with performing tigers, lions, bears and primates.
The same company owns Badaling Safari World on the outskirts of Beijing, which had previously been exposed in a 2007 report for openly advertising tiger bone wine. When EIA visited in Dec 2007 it was still offering visitors tiger bone wine. It said there were between 40 and 50 captive-bred tigers on site at that time.
Blind eye being turned
"Debbie Banks Head of EIA's Tiger Campaign said: "Chinese authorities are clearly continuing to turn a blind eye to the illegal trade and EIA is now calling for an urgent crackdown on the trade at these parks. We also want other parks with similar tiger ‘attractions' to be investigated to see how widespread this tiger bone wine making practice is. We want authorities to give a clear message to the business community that this illegal trade will not be tolerated."
Furthermore, a powerful lobby of the businessmen who own these parks and tiger ‘farms' in China is pressuring its government to lift the current domestic ban on trade in tiger body parts so it can commercially produce tiger bone wine from captive animals.
But EIA and many conservation groups say this would be disastrous for endangered wild tigers. "Lifting the ban would increase demand and lead to a surge in poaching of India's already embattled wild tiger populations. It would be all too easy to launder their skins, bones and parts among those from legalised tiger farms. This would be effectively declare an open season on wild tigers," said Debbie Banks.