On International Tiger Day 29th July more bizarre details of Europe‘s ties with dubious tiger traders come to light. Research conducted by international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS shows that at least 1,412 live captive-bred tigers from the EU were legally exported between 1999 and 2016. It is believed that several of these animals have ended up in Asian tourist areas or were killed for traditional Chinese medicine. However, even in Europe tigers are slaughtered. On 16th July Czech authorities discovered a dead tiger as well as tiger skin, claws, bouillon cubes and broth – also called tiger wine – made from tiger bones on a property near Prague.
FOUR PAWS petition now calls on the EU Commission to ban the trade in captive-bred tigers https://help.four-paws.org/en/ban-tiger-trade
‘The world has already lost more than 90% of its tigers. There are only about 3,900 tigers and in the wild, yet the number of tigers held in captivity is unknown. The new findings and the extent of the tiger trade in Europe are therefore more than shocking. We call on the European Commission to protect the endangered tigers and ban commercial trade in captive-bred tigers. Tiger traders and their cruel business should no longer have a place in the EU,” says Kieran Harkin, Head of Wildlife Campaigns at FOUR PAWS.
The global trade of the endangered big cat and its body parts is flourishing. According to FOUR PAWS investigations and Czech authorities, a living tiger attracts up to 22,000 euros (USD26,000). A kilo of tiger bones is available for about 1,700 euros (USD2,000) and a litre of tiger wine – an allegedly healing broth made from tiger bones – can be found for 85 euros (USD100) on the black market. Between 1999 and 2016, 862 live tigers were legally imported into the EU and 1,412 were exported, which means that Europe’s tiger business is worth more than 50 million euros (USD59 mln) – although this troubling figure is estimated to be higher. During the same period, 8,278 illegal tiger products, such as tiger bouillon cubes, teeth and claws, and 57 illegal live tigers were confiscated in the EU. This horrific trade in endangered tiger parts is wide reaching, with evidence of illegal activity across France, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Shocking findings in the Czech Republic
In recent raids near Prague, Czech authorities discovered a dead tiger as well as tiger bones, tiger broth and other remains last week. To not damage the skins, the arrested suspects apparently killed the animals with gunshots in the eyes. The suspects include the well-known zoo owner Ludvik Berousek. At a meeting with FOUR PAWS undercover investigators in June 2018, which was filmed with a hidden camera, Berousek told the investigators that he helps Asian buyers to get the necessary documents for the transfer of the tigers. The zoo owner also bragged that he had already sold a few tigers to China in the last two months. Additionally, the Czech authorities raided the Vietnamese Sapa market in Prague, finding tiger meat products available for sale.
Tigers as a tourist attraction, party trick and photo prop
The findings in the Czech Republic are not isolated cases. FOUR PAWS investigations show that in the past four years, animal traders have exported at least five live tigers from Germany via the Czech Republic to Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea. Further research in Vietnam revealed that at least two of the tigers ended up in the hands of a convicted wildlife trafficker. Also, the trade within the EU often leads to mistreatment of the big cats. In Spain, a zoo called “Zooexoticoskiko” is currently offering wild animals, including tigers, for photo shoots. Also, erotic images can be made with the animals. In some European countries it is also possible to hire tigers for private parties.
Lack of transparency in the EUfe
In the EU, the trade in wild tigers is forbidden, but not the trade in captive-bred tigers. Regulation and enforcement, however, is severely lacking. As a result, the exact numbers of captive and traded tigers in Europe is unknown, as movements within the EU do not require CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) import or export permits. Hence, there are hardly any official documents proving who sells tigers, when, to whom and for what purposes.
FOUR PAWS has therefore launched a petition that enables supporters to call on the European Commission to ban the commercial trade in captive-bred tigers to protect the endangered species from cruel exploitation: https://help.four–paws.org/en/ban-tiger-trade