Farming Tigers in China

1 December, 2009

Filed under: Tigers — Tags: — admin @ 1:52 am

China has two sub-species of tiger: the Southern Chinese Tiger Panthera tigris amoyensis and the Siberian Tiger P. t. altaica. The Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti, may have occurred in parts of what is geographically China today, but is almost definitely extinct within China proper now. China’s tigers are in desperate shape, with the southern sub-species listed as one of the top ten most critically endangered animals in the world today, and may no longer exist in the wild. The northern tiger is not in danger of imminent extinction as a species, but within China, it is on the verge of disappearing completely. There is only one site where tigers are occasionally seen, when they cross the frozen Ussuri river from Russia.

tigers

tigers

Not for the queasy-stomached, the Chinese seem to love feeding the tigers. This chicken fell into the midst of 5 sets of canines and incisors, and evaporated.

Chinese medicine will undeniably be the cause for the tiger’s eventual extinction in China, and that is also a surety. The belief that consuming tiger cures diseases and gives health is deeply ingrained in the Chinese psyche, and this will not change. What do you do when a highly treasured medicine is firstly, so rare and so expensive to obtain and secondly, is almost running out completely? The answer is simple – start farming tigers.

Tigers are easy to breed in captivity. All you need is a large facility, and lots and lots of money to feed large numbers of large carnivores. This has been done in China, with two large farms in Heilongjiang province. The farm in Haerbin has about 750 tigers at present. It belongs to the Provincial Forestry Department, and has a rather peculiar problem – it is costing the department an enormous amount of money to feed over 700 tigers.

tigers in cage

With over 700 tigers in the farm, space is a limitation. After years of discussion, the adjacent land was allocated to the farm, to increase the area and reduce the crowding. Once obtained, the land was immediately leased to a developer, and now has several blocks of residential units on it. The tigers make do.

wildlife encounter

There is something to be said of the awe one experiences when close to such a magnificent animal. Siberian tigers are huge! They appear even short-legged than the Bengal or Sumatran tigers, because of their thick coats and pillar-like front legs. And those pale eyes reach into your very soul…

closeup

Dinner-plate sized paws take your breath away, with these flimsy cages the only thing in between you and a very large cat. People love it. But the tigers are bored. Those fortunate enough to be let loose in the enclosures to interact with the screaming tourist get a full meal by breakfast, then seemingly go through the motions for the rest of the day.

cages

Gulag style cages dominate the farm, each holding several tigers. And its not only Siberian tigers here, they also have Gir lions, cheetah, leopards and puma.

Why are both these tiger farms located in the northeast of China, one might ask. The answer is because of the sub-arctic climate, where temperatures drop to -40ºC for 5-6 months each year. The Haerbin tiger farm has over 250 frozen tiger carcasses, and anywhere else in China, keeping these frozen would run up a very large electricity bill.

Why keep tiger carcasses? Need you ask? They are precious! In July 2007, an international tiger conservation workshop was held in Haerbin, where the debate centred around China’s push to lift the ban on domestic trade in tiger parts.

tigershop

Almost anything that one could imagine is found in the farm’s shops. Tiger toothpicks anyone? To remove those pesky pieces of beaver stuck between your teeth?

tiger wine

This huge glass tank is filled with wine and a full tiger skeleton. you can purchase a container of this wine for a handsome sum. You will apparently live forever after a sip, backache free!

http://www.catsg.org/catsgportal/events-activities/02_reports/CatSG_Harbin_2007_Tiger_Workshop_Report_U_Breitenmoser.pdf

In the mean time, 700 tigers make for good and profitable viewing. Reminiscent of Jurassic park, hundreds of tourists flock to the farm in the summer, crowd into caged trucks and surround themselves with Siberian tigers. A morbid practice is buying a chicken or goat, and releasing it amongst the tigers, and cheer loudly as it is ripped apart. For the richer connoisseurs, you can buy a cow for Y2,000, and watch the animal have its guts ripped out in front of your friends and family. I once watched the wardens enter the enclosure and walk out a cow with its guts trailing, left alive and standing after the 8 tigers that gutted it lost interest, and wandered off towards the next tourist truck. The pictures are too gory to post here…

If you are ever visiting Haerbin, give this a miss… unless you work in conservation, and need a shot in the arm.

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