Tiger farms are horrible places.
That we have long known. What we have not known is just how horrible some of them are: they operate as little more than meat factories where the predators are cooped up in small cages where visitors can gawk at the majestic creatures before the animals are slaughtered, away from public view, and sold for dinner tables and shelves in apothecaries.
A report by The New York Times exposes an entertainment venue within a special economic zone in Bokeo Province in Laos, where a "tiger zoo" blatantly offers a "jungle menu." On it, the newspaper explains, are "expensive plates of bear paw, pangolin (an endangered scaly mammal) and sautéed tiger meat, which can be paired with tiger wine, a grain-based concoction in which the cats’ penises, bones or entire skeletons are soaked for months." A plate of tiger meat can be had for as little as $45 (RM190).
Meanwhile, at adjacent jewelry shops and apothecaries, openly on sale are items made from tiger teeth and claws, carved rhino horns, and decorative objects fashioned from ivory and elephant skin.
And this has been going on for years. Even as far back as 2015 a group of conservationists reported that "meals, medicine and jewelry made from numerous protected species — including tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses, bears and elephants — were openly sold in the special economic zone," the paper says.
Nor is this the only place where tigers are bred and kept before being killed for their meat, bones, teeth, claws and pelts.
In Laos alone, an estimated 700 tigers live on numerous farms, while in neighboring China up to 6,000 tigers languish, often in horrible conditions, at some 200 such farms.
And this despite concentrated efforts to close down such farms. The World Wide Fund for Nature has called on all governments in the region, from Laos to Thailand to Vietnam, to shut down all tiger farms and "tiger zoos" once and for all.
Stopping all trade in tiger parts, and phasing out these tiger farms, is of the utmost urgency if the tiger is to survive in the wild, noted Susan Lieberman, director of the Species Program of WWF International.
It is time for the world community to join together, with tiger range state governments, to stop all poaching of tigers for illegal trade.
It is also high time that all tiger farms were closed down permanently.