Environmental News from Asia:
- As the world celebrates the Year of the Tiger in 2022, humans continue to threaten the cat’s long-term survival in the wild by killing, buying, and selling tigers and their prey, and encroaching into their last shreds of habitat.
- With the world’s second Global Tiger Summit and important international meetings on biodiversity and endangered species looming, it’s a crucial year for tigers. In the wild, some populations are increasing, some stable, and others shrinking: Bengal tigers in India are faring best, while Malayan tigers hover on extinction’s edge.
- Under a 2007 CITES decision, tigers should be bred only for conservation purposes. Evidence shows that this decision is being disregarded by some Asian nations, including China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. But CITES has done little to enforce it, which could be done through sanctions, say critics.
The illegal tiger-farming business is thriving in parts of Asia.
Tigers and bears can be seen pacing inside prison-like cages made of cement and corrugated steel in new, covert drone footage obtained by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). Located close to a casino complex on the banks of the Mekong River in Laos, this is a newly built, expanded commercial captive-breeding facility. The video reveals that tiger numbers there have doubled since the U.K. nonprofit’s 2015 “Sin City” exposé.
Farming tigers for their parts, like pigs and chickens, violates an international treaty, though it continues in Laos, China, Vietnam, and Thailand. The illicit trade also violates Laos’s commitment to convert tiger farms to zoos and stop breeding.
“This is no zoo,” says Debbie Banks, the EIA’s campaign leader for tigers and wildlife crime. “There’s no conservation or educational value and [the facility is] not open to the public.”
The EIA’s 2015 report documented rampant wildlife trafficking within Laos’s tax-free Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GTSEZ), home to the Kings Romans Casino and an adjoining Chinatown district. The EIA called the complex an upscale, lawless playground “catering to the desires of visiting Chinese gamblers and tourists.” Undercover investigators discovered restaurants serving rare and exotic wildlife. Stores sold endangered species products. And a nascent tiger-farming industry allegedly supplied these establishments with tiger parts. When the EIA began its probe in 2014, this new venture had six tigers. Nine months later, there were 35. Now there are about 70.
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