Tiger farms feed illegal trafficking in Vietnam

By VnExpress   September 29, 2016 | 02:16 am PT
Tiger farms feed illegal trafficking in Vietnam
The number of tigers held captive in Asian farms is more than twice the number in the wild. Photo by TRAFFIC
Some people still think that eating one of the most endangered animals in the world can cure everything.

Conservation groups are urging Vietnam to close down its tiger farms, blaming the flourishing facilities for fueling trafficking in a country where there are fewer than five tigers left in the wild.

The call for an end to tiger farming has been raised at the 17th Convention of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg, asking Vietnam and several Asian countries to commit to a clear timeframe for phasing out tiger breeding facilities.

A new report by TRAFFIC and the WWF pointed to an increase of tiger farming in Vietnam and raised concerns that these facilities provide greater access to tiger parts and products.

The organizations said 162 trafficked tigers were seized in Vietnam between 2004 and 2015, including 61 suspected to have come from captive sources, the largest number only after Thailand’s 172.

Captive tigers in Vietnam have increased from 107 to 180 at present, according to a government report. These breeding facilities have no connection with conservation reserves.

This rising supply has met increasing demand for tiger bones for medicinal purposes. At least half of the seizures of tigers and parts reported between 2012 and 2015 were intended for the production of tiger bone paste, known in Vietnamese as 'cao'.

The TRAFFIC and WWF report said there has been no decline in tiger trafficking across Asia, with parts equating to at least 1,755 tigers seized between 2000 and 2015, or an average more than two per week.

Surveys found there are now more than 200 captive tiger facilities across Asia, with around 8,000 tigers held captive in China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, twice more than the estimated 3,890 tigers in the wild.

Tigers are classified as an endangered species worldwide, with poaching and habitat loss threatening their survival.

Early this year, a WWF report compiling data from the International Union of Conservation for Nature and national tiger surveys warned that the animal is under severe threat, especially in Southeast Asia, due to a lack of action from local governments.

Cambodia has lost its tigers while there are only two left in Laos and less than five in Vietnam.

The decline is astonishing compared to national and global estimates around five years ago, when Vietnam had between 30 and 50 tigers in the wild. The number reported in the early 2000s was more than 100.

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

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