Friday, 13 April 2007

Conservation Conversations 15


Tigers in a Tank?


Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, outside the Chinese city of Guilin, is successfully 'farming' animals such as the Amur tiger (http://environment.guardian.co.uk/conservation/story/0,,2056434,00.html). In deed, they have increased their captive tiger population from 12 in 1992 to a current 'healthy' 1300 (almost as many as the total currently found in India). People pay to watch tigers kill live cows at feeding time as well as bears cycling on high wires and monkeys riding camels. In the location's restaurant, you can reportedly eat expensive tiger, lion, bear cub and civet cat dishes. Xiongsen is said to have masses of tiger material stored in deep freezers and is lobbying the Global Tiger Forum (in Kathmandu) and the next CITES meeting (in the Hague) to have the global ban on trading in tiger products removed. They are claiming that the ban has not stopped the decline in the wild tiger and that the inability to sell is costing the Chinese economy £2bn as well as damaging China's traditional medicine culture. Normally, such successful captive breeding programme would be regarded as a success story. There is, however, little evidence that the traditional 'medicines' have any real human benefits and it is highly unlikely that over-turning the ban will in any way enhance the survival of the tiger in the wild. Wild tigers will still be hunted, have their habitats destroyed and, it has been argued, that Xioongsen's 'farmed' tigers are unsuitable for release). It will be interesting to see if China's new economic strength changes the CITES ban (shades of Japanese pressure in relation to whaling?).
UPDATE
The Global Tiger Forum in Kathmandu reported that the joint project between WWF and the Russian Government had brought the "Amur tiger back from the brink" (of extinction in the Sihote-Alinn mountain region. A spokesman claimed that "the success of the tiger population is mostly the result of the tiger ban in China and the support of the Chinese government."

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