Saturday, February 13, 2010

Killing the Tigers in Order to Save Them

Fascinating Wall Street Journal Piece Opens Rare Window to Chinese Tiger Farms

Today's Wall Street Journal has an item about a proposal by two economists to legalize sale of tiger parts in China to combat poaching and reduce the rate that the habitat for wild tigers is shrinking.
And these parts would come from farm-bred tigers. That's right, farm-bred, which is legal in China, where 6,000 tigers are bred in captivity. I was initially in a bit of denial when first wondering why there are tiger farms in the first place.
Were that that many zoos out there that needed to restock? Nah. The article by Beijing correspondent Shai Oster notes that some farms exist for research. After all, wild tigers in China have been virtually hunted to extinction. Then there are those that tourists can visit and feed the tigers live cows and chickens.
But it appears they really exist to harvest parts for use in traditional medicines, parts that can sell for up to $70,000 on the black market when taken from one animal. Yes, these sales have been banned since 1993, but Oster reports some farms have freezers filled with hundreds of carcasses in case the ban is lifted.
It's a fascinating story, one that makes a good case for why newspapers need their own foreign reporters and not rely on wire service reporters who are too caught up in the day-to-day work to do too much enterprise reporting.