Police investigate five Vietnamese for trafficking live tiger

By Hoang Viet   May 25, 2017 | 10:15 am GMT+7

Police rescued the tiger just as the group was about to kill it to make bone paste.

Police have launched criminal probes into five Vietnamese for violating regulations on protection of endangered animals and illegal possession of drugs, after the five were arrested earlier this month while attempting to kill a live tiger in Hanoi.

On May 12 police detained Le Hong Van, Nguyen Thanh Cong and another three men as they were discussing details on how to kill the 200-kilogram (440 lb) tiger Van bought from the central province of Nghe An to make tiger bone paste, according to police investigators in Hanoi's Dong Da District.

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Five men have been detained earlier in May for trafficking a live tiger and possession of drugs. Photo by Cong an nhan dan newspaper.

The purchase, worth VND1 billion ($44,000), was made after Van received an order for a tiger from a customer in Hanoi. The customer then asked Van to cook tiger bone paste for VND40 million, so he hired the other three men for the work.

Police busted the group as they were about to cook the bone paste. Along with the live tiger, the authorities also seized a sack of serow bones, deer antlers and more than 5 grams (0.2 ounces) of opium, which the men planned to add to the pot of bone paste.

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The tiger when rescued by police. Photo courtesy of Cong an nhan dan newspaper.

Tiger bones are used in Vietnam to make traditional medicine to treat bone or joint-related ailments, despite no scientific evidence to say the treatment is effective. The bones are boiled down until they form a glue-like substance, which is then dried and sold for around VND20 million per 100 grams.

Besides bones, the animal is also trafficked for meat, its skin and claws in Vietnam.

Locally-based conservation group Education for Nature-Vietnam estimated that between 2006 and September 2016, the organization investigated 971 cases of trading, transporting, selling and advertising of tigers or tiger products. They helped rescue 14 live tigers and confiscated 69 dead tigers.

Vietnam may have very few tigers left in the wild, following at least three cases of trafficking dead tigers since last October, while the last figure counted five in May 2016, down from 30 in 2011.

Violation of regulations on protection of endangered animals is punishable by up to seven years in jail.