China tries to rewrite the prescription for tigers
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2006:
HONG KONG–Trying to reshape world opinion about tiger
conservation, in hopes of reopening legal commerce in tiger parts,
the State Forestry Administration of China during the second week of
June 2006 hosted visits to two major tiger farms by four outside
Three of them soon extensively praised Chinese tiger programs
in published statements.
Free market economic advocate Baron Mitra, who directs the
Liberty Institute in Delhi, India, in a guest column for India
Today unfavorably compared tbe faltering Indian effort to conserve
wild tigers with the Chinese proliferation of tigers in captivity.
“There are around 20 tiger-breeding facilities in China,”
Mitra stated. “While most are small, some are quite large. A
40-hectare tiger and bear park in the town of Guilin houses around
1,000 tigers. This is a major tourist destination, but the revenue
from tourism is nowhere near adequate to meet the cost of raising a
tiger. To meet the expense,” Mitra asserted, “this park has been
completely mortgaged to banks. Some years ago, it had to destroy a
stock of bones from dead tigers, because the cost of refrigeration
was too high.
“Yet Chinese entrepreneurs and wildlife managers look
optimistic,” Mitra continued. “An adult tiger leaves behind about
12 to 15 kilograms of dry bones, which could sell for $500-$1,000
per kilo in the traditional Chinese medicine market. The skin,
claws, and some other organs could fetch another $10,000. In
addition, there is a constant demand for purebred subspecies of live
tiger cubs and young adults from zoos and other establishments around
the world. Tiger farms are eminently viable financially,” Mitra
argued, saying nothing of the irony that his opinions about tigers
were sought by a government which does not allow much public
discussion of his economic philosophy.
The tigers whom the delegation saw “lived in conditions
comparable to what I would call a ‘basic’ zoo,” said fellow tour
member Kristen Conrad. “Some of the animals were roaming around
large semi-natural enclosures,” with “More room than what I see in
Singapore, the American Zoo Association-certified zoo of which I was
a board member, and at the San Diego Zoo.
“I think it can be more humane to kill a zoo animal” than to
kill wildlife, Conrad added.
San Diego-based blogger Cory Meacham had the strongest
credentials as tiger conservationist, journalist, and observer of
China among the identified tour participants, as author of How The
Tiger Lost Its Stripes (1997) and a speaker of Mandarin. He also
raised the most criticisms of the Chinese agenda for tigers, while
appearing to endorse the economic theory behind it.
“In 1993,” Meacham recapped, “China installed a ban on the
domestic trade of anything derived from a tiger,” two years after
China signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species. “Farms that bred tigers to supply the domestic trade were
converted by mandate into less profitable exhibition-only facilities,
unless they were willing to indulge in the black market.
“We were not paid for our time,” Meacham disclosed, “but
all our expenses were covered. Only one of my three colleagues had
ever even heard of me a month ago,” he admitted.
“We were presented to park operators, local and regional
politicos, wildlife management, law enforcement, educational
establishments, and many emissaries from the traditional Chinese
medicine community. Banners heralded our arrivals, banquets took
place in our honor, and on one occasion our advent was accompanied
by stand-up applause. Cameras were focused on us continuously. We
even found ourselves in a motorcade ushered fore and aft by police
cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“We were of course being buttered up, trotted out, and
carefully guided,” Meacham acknowledged, noting “the lack of time
we were granted to ask questions and listen to answers.
“The tigers now housed in at least two tiger-breeding
facilities in China, a thousand or so of whom I’ve just been up
close and personal with, are happy cats,” Meacham asserted. “None
of the tiger farmers we met in China has plans to kill tigers,”
Meacham claimed, “and they even looked a bit confused when we
brought up such plans. Their plan is to breed enough tigers to
satisfy the demand for tiger parts with the bodies of tigers who die
naturally. That’s right, no slaughter. Indeed, those farmers have
been letting their tigers die naturally since 1993,” Meacham wrote,
“and have been stockpiling the cadavers in walk-in freezers,
awaiting the day the ban might be lifted.
“China still has a couple of enormous blind spots and some
very big problems with their tiger-farming plans,” Meacham allowed.
“In my opinion what they are on the verge of doing is going to spell
either the doom or the salvation of the wild tiger.”
Commented Asia Animal Protection Network founder John
Wedderburn, of Hong Kong, after AAPN shared the Mitra, Conrad,
and Meacham commentaries with the international animal welfare
community, “I would prefer extinction of my species to a future of
captivity, certainly of captivity in the conditions currently
offered in Chinese zoos.”
Wedderburn has visited and reviewed dozens of Chinese zoos
since 1994, revisiting many, also frequently reviewing zoos in
other parts of the world, always as an uninvited guest whose
presence is seldom known to officials until afterward.
Rumors that China might again allow the sale of tiger
products surfaced earlier in reports from Agence France-Press and The
Independent, of London, in September 2005.
“Make no bones about it–this could be the end for tigers,”
warned World Wildlife Fund tiger conservation program chief Callum
Rankin. “Poachers living near the world’s last populations of tigers
may kill them to supply illegal markets that are likely to develop
alongside any new legal ones.”
“If this goes ahead, it will undo all the excellent work that
the Chinese government has done over the past 12 years,” agreed
Steven Broad, executive director of the WWF-sponsored wildlife
monitoring group TRAFFIC International.
“This single decision by the Chinese, if they decide to lift
the ban, could be the turning point and drive the tigers into
extinction,” agreed Crawford Allan, North American deputy director
Wrote Maxine Frith of The Indep-endent, “The charities
believe that the Chinese government is bowing to pressure from tiger
farmers and traditional medicine practitioners. Observers believe
that many of the farmers are breeding far more tigers than zoos need
because they believe the ban will be lifted, and trade in their body
parts will resume. One tiger park in Guilin, Guangxi province,
claims to be able to raise up to 1,000 tigers.”
As of March 2006, China had 4,000 captive-bred tigers,
among them 1,300 Siberian tigers, but had fewer than 100 tigers left
in the wild, including no more than 10 Siberians, said Zhuo
Rongsheng, director of wildlife and plant protection department for
the State Forestry Administration.
However, the wild Manchurian tiger population in China has
increased from five to seven in 1999 to 14 as of April 2006,
according to findings by the Academy of Wildlife of Heilongjiang
A controversial attempt to raise tigers under wild conditions
in South Africa for release in China is still underway, three years
after the first of four cubs arrived from China. The project is
directed by former fashion executive Li Quan, 44.
Zimbabwean tourism minister Francis Nhema in September 2005
told Reuters that he expected to soon receive four tigers from China,
who would be used in a similar project. “We do not have a tiger in
this country, and we would like to benefit from the exchange program
with China,” Nhema said. “We have also given China various animals
for breeding, including zebra, impala and elephants,” he added.
Issuing Exempted Fishing Permits will allow as many as 24
drift gill net vessels and over 100 longline vessels back into the
Public comments are urgently needed to let the government
know there is strong opposition to rolling back protection for marine
animals. Visit <www.seaturtles.org/-pacific> to send your comments.
All comments must reach the National Marine Fisheries Service by
August 10, 2006. “I.D. 070506D” must be included in the subject
line of any faxes, letters, or e-mails, which may be addressed to:
Rodney R. McInnis, Regional Administrator, Southwest Region NMFS,
501 West Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802; fax 562-980
4047; e-mail <0648-AU25.SWR@noaa.gov>.
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
P.O. Box 400
Forest Knolls, CA 94933
Spay/Panama was started by a group of volunteers in 2001,
inspired by the McKee Project in Costa Rica and Spay/USA. With great
pleasure I announce that Spay/Panama has been granted nonprofit
status on the same day that we reached 8,000 animals sterilized. May
God bless all our furry friends!
Bethania, Zona 6
Fan in France
I just wanted to tell you how very much I enjoy reading
ANIMAL PEOPLE. I read first the Lewyt Award story, then the obits,
then the DELTA Rescue story, the editorial, the letters to the
editor, articles that are not continued from the front page, and
finally the front page articles. Reading ANIMAL PEOPLE re-energizes
me in terms of my animal rights work, reminds me what is truly
important in my life (trying to do something to change the situation
of non-human animals), moves me, and in general is just a great
read as well as an unparalled source of information. I feel as if I
haven’t been as active as I should be lately, but ANIMAL PEOPLE
keeps me on the right course.
Animal Birth Control in Sri Lanka
While the President of Sri Lanka has ordered local
authorities to stop killing dogs, and to implement humane methods of
rabies prevention and population control, the policy makers are
still talking about imposing a registration fee on dog-owners, which
would definitely double or triple the number of homeless dogs,
because, if people are supposed to pay for their dogs, many will
disown the dogs instead. Many have not intentionally acquired dogs in
the first place, but have adopted them since they were roaming
around hungry and in need of shelter.
We would have expected that after the presidential order,
the Kandy Municipal Corporation and Central Province Government would
release funds to vaccinate and sterilize dogs, but so far all
sterilizations of community dogs in Kandy are still done by us, with
the help of donations received by animal welfare groups and
individuals abroad. In Kandy we have sterilized and vaccinated more
than 7,500 animals (mostly female dogs) in the past four years.
If one adds to this figure the numbers who have been
sterilized by other animal welfare groups, Kandy has reduced its dog
population substantially. The number of dog bites has decreased by
more than 50%, and therefore 50% fewer rabies post-exposure
vaccinations have been issued.
Now we are facing a high number of dogs being brought for
sterilization not only from Kandy, but also from the Central
Province, and are receiving many requests for field clinics from all
parts of Kandy and surrounding villages. We would like to respond
positively to all these requests, and would gladly increase the
number of community dogs and strays we sterilize, but this will not
be possible with the contributions from our present donor base.
Therefore we can only hope that the local authorities will soon
either establish their own clinics, or assist those of us who
already carry out clinics to reduce the numbers of homeless dogs.
It will also be necessary for the media to step in with educational
programs, because many Buddhists still believe that if they
sterilize their dogs, they will not be able to have children in
their next life, as a punishment.
Meanwhile, the wise presidential decision to introduce
humane methods of animal control has been altered. Instead of
sterilizing the animals, the local authorities may use progesterone
treatment to prevent pregnancies. After consulting the Peradeniya
University veterinary surgeons, we concluded that this method should
not be adopted.
Even after one progesterone injection, animals can develop pyometra,
a very painful condition, which is fatal if not treated in time by
removal of the womb. This is more likely after repeated treatments.
Progesterone injection have to be repeated every six months. Even if
the animal does not die of pyometra, doing repeated injections is
neither economical nor efficient.
Further, since no animal warden can know when each street-dog was in
heat last, the warden cannot know whether an injected dog is
pregnant. Injecting pregnant dogs can cause them a very painful slow
We have urged the President to give a strict order that dog
population control has to be done through surgical sterilization.
–Rohini de Silva
Save Our Friends Assn.
11 Jaya Mawatha
Kandy, Sri Lanka
Poaching in Virunga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly
Zaire, began in 1997. The prelude was the arrival of refugees from
the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Refugee camps put tremendous pressure on the natural
resources of Virunga National Park. Since then, the whole region
has suffered from fighting among both rebel groups and regular armies.
Established in 1925, Virunga National Park is a World
Heritage Site. Traveling from Rutshuru to Kanyabayonga, or across
the Vitshumbi plain, one could normally see snakes, warthogs,
elephants, buffalo, and antelope. But Virunga National Park today
is a desert.
“Poaching” doesn’t exist any more because of the difficulty
of differentiating between soldiers and criminals. Local authorities
exploit public ignorance to involve the public in despoiling the park
We are hated. Our members are put in jail and obliged to
move from area to area, village to village, escaping pursuit by
administrative and military authorities for having exposed their
complicity in destroying Virunga.
Animals are slaughtered before the eyes of the authorities
whose duty includes protecting biodiversity. Militias and their
dependents, in unknown numbers, provision themselves from the
Virunga National Park wildlife. Even guided by a park game ranger,
you will need several days쫱◐܀耀