Asian affluence endangers world tiger population

Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:58pm EST
 
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By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Demand by a newly rich Asian population for such goods as tiger bone tonic wine and tigers' skin, meat and teeth is putting pressure on these endangered creatures worldwide, wildlife advocates reported on Wednesday.

Because of this increased Asian demand for tiger products, tiger farms in Asia are breeding the animals for their body parts, even though there is a ban on this trade in Asia, said Crawford Allan, Director of TRAFFIC-North America, which monitors such illicit commerce in animal products.

"Some of the spending of (new Asian) wealth is on symbols of status and traditional products that were previously out of reach, and some of those include endangered species like the tiger." Allan said in an online briefing.

"Tiger bone tonic wine has become a fashionable cocktail to serve among these nouveau riches, particularly in countries like China," he said.

The United States is also part of the problem, Allan and other conservation leaders said in the briefing, because the U.S. captive tiger population of 5,000 animals is larger than the estimated 3,200 wild tigers in the world.

Many U.S. tigers are bred for entertainment purposes or for private collections, rather than zoos. However, while a small tiger cub may be appealing, even a six-month-old tiger is too much for most private owners to handle and hundreds are turned over to sanctuaries.

What happens to them then is hard to discern because of an irregular patchwork of laws and regulations, the environmentalists said, and some may end up as part of the illegal trade in tiger parts.

YEAR OF THE TIGER   Continued...

 
<p>This undated handout image shows Chinese medicines, containing tiger and rhino parts, confiscated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Los Angeles International Airport. Demand by a newly rich Asian population for such goods as tiger bone tonic wine and tigers' skin, meat and teeth is putting pressure on these endangered creatures worldwide, wildlife advocates reported on February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Wil Lujiif-WWF-Canon/Handout</p>