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 use in traditional Chinese medicine.
A FOUR PAWS petition now calls on the EU Commission to ban the trade in captive-bred tigers.
The global trade in endangered tiger parts is far-reaching, with evidence of illegal activity across France, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Czech Republic.
According to FOUR PAWS research and the Czech authorities, a living tiger attracts up to 22,000 euros (26,000 US dollars). A kilo of tiger bones is available for about 1,700 euros (2,000 US dollars) and a litre of tiger wine – an allegedly healing broth made from tiger bones – can be found for 85 euros (100 US dollars) 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 (59 million US dollars) – 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, as well as 57 illegal live tigers, were confiscated in the EU.
"The world has already lost more than 90 percent of its tigers. There are only about 3,900 tigers left 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."
Kieran Harkin, FOUR PAWS Head of Wildlife Campaigns
Shocking findings in the Czech Republic
On July 16, Czech authorities discovered a dead tiger as well as tiger skin, claws, bouillon cubes and broth – also called tiger wine and made from tiger bones – on a property near Prague. In order not to damage the skins, the arrested suspects had apparently killed the animals with gunshots through the eyes.
At a meeting with FOUR PAWS undercover investigators in June 2018, filmed with a hidden camera, well-known zoo owner Ludvik Berousek talked about how he helps Asian buyers to obtain the necessary documents for the transfer of tigers. The zoo owner also bragged about having already sold a few tigers to Chinese buyers in the last two months. Additionally, the Czech authorities raided the Vietnamese Sapa market in Prague, finding tiger meat products on sale.
Tigers as tourist attractions, on hire for party tricks and photo shoots
The findings in the Czech Republic are not isolated cases. FOUR PAWS research shows 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, trade within the EU often leads to the abuse of the big cats. In Spain, a zoo called 'Zooexoticoskiko' currently offers wild animals, including tigers, for photo shoots. In some European countries, it is also possible to hire tigers for private parties.
Lack of transparency in the EU
In the EU, the trade in wild tigers is banned, but not the trading of captive-bred tigers, while regulation 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 in order to protect the endangered species from cruel exploitation.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au