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China's Threat to Wild Tigers

THE NEW YORK TIMES
Sunday Review | Opinion
By Sharon Guynup
June 28, 2014

EARLIER this year, a police raid on a house party in Leizhou, Guangdong Province, in southern China, revealed a decadent diversion apparently popular among some of China’s elite: watching a tiger being slaughtered and butchered, then gorging on meat that’s considered an exotic delicacy.

Fifteen people were arrested and charged with killing more than 10 tigers in the past few years. One of them, a real estate developer identified as Mr. Xu, pleaded guilty to consuming three tigers in 2013. A prosecutor said he had “a quirky appetite for eating tiger penis and drinking tiger blood.”

The Nanfang Daily reported that these “visual feasts” had become fashionable among wealthy businessmen and government officials. One official told China Daily that the privileged staged these dinners “as a form of entertainment and to show off their wealth.”

The demise of the tiger, the world’s most endangered big cat, was hastened by demand for traditional Chinese medicine, which ascribed healing properties to nearly every part of the cat, from whiskers to tail.

But that has changed, says a new report commissioned by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which regulates that trade under a treaty signed by 180 nations.

“ ‘Wealth’ [is] replacing ‘health’ as a primary form of consumer motivation,” the report says. Tiger parts “are now consumed less as medicine and more as exotic luxury products.”


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